Message sent from:


How do people around the world celebrate the coming of the New Year? There are many and varied customs from one country to another, ranging from watching fireworks to eating special foods. Some are surprising, such as the Thai custom of throwing water on people, or the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes at midnight. Many of these traditions are intended to bring good luck during the year ahead.


The Ancient Babylonians are thought to be the first to make New Year's resolutions, and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since! The early Christians believed the first day of the New Year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the New Year. Noisemaking and fireworks on New Year's Eve began in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck. The Chinese invented fireworks but many other cultures use them in their New Year celebrations. 


In Greece, New Year's Day is also the Festival of St. Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the traditional foods served is St Basil's cake. A silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be especially lucky during the coming year.

In the Netherlands people often burn bonfires made from their old Christmas trees and set off fireworks. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new.

Scotland is the home of Hogmanay, the rousing New Year celebration, and of course, Auld Lang Syne. One of the traditions is first-footing: shortly after midnight, neighbours visit each other to impart New Year wishes. First foots used to bring a gift of coal for the fire, or shortbread. It is especially lucky if a tall, dark and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the New Year is rung in. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration, an all-night street party, is the largest in the country,

In Spain people like to eat twelve grapes as the clock strikes midnight. This tradition is meant to bring them twelve happy months in the coming year.


In Argentina families get together for a big meal at around 11pm, and people set off fireworks at midnight. Then young people go to clubs to dance the night away. The next day people go swimming in rivers, lakes or public swimming pools.

In Brazil there are big parties, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where people go to the beach to watch the fireworks. Some people jump seven waves and throw flowers in the sea while making a wish: it is thought the goddess who protects the sea will make their wishes come true.  White clothes are often worn to bring good luck and peace for the year ahead.

In Colombia they burn “Mr Old Year” by making a big stuffed male doll (like our guy on bonfire night). They put things inside that bring sadness or bad memories and they dress the man with old clothes from each member of the family. At midnight they set the doll on fire: this symbolises getting rid of the bad things of the past and getting ready to start a happy New Year. 

In Venezuela, people often wear yellow underwear on New Year's Day for good luck. Some people also eat twelve grapes at midnight for good luck (as in Spain). People who want to travel take a suitcase and carry it around the house. In almost every house, people have a big family meal and drink champagne. People also write letters asking for their wishes, and when the New Year comes, they put all the letters together and burn them so that that nobody can read what they wrote.


In China the New Year begins in late January or February. New Year’s Eve is a time for families to spend time together and eat special foods to symbolise good luck. People pray for a new start in the spring and make wishes and plans for the year ahead. Children often wear new clothes and receive gifts of lucky money. See our Chinese New Year pages for more details.

The New Year is the most important holiday in Japan, and is a symbol of renewal. In December, various "forget-the-year parties" are held to bid farewell to the problems of the past year and prepare for a new beginning. Misunderstandings and grudges are forgiven and houses are scrubbed. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, to try to expel 108 types of human weakness. New Year's Day is a day of joy and no work is to be done. Children receive small gifts with money inside. Sending New Year's cards is a popular tradition—if postmarked by a certain date, the Japanese post office guarantees delivery of all New Year cards on January 1st.

In Korea they put on traditional clothes. On New Year’s Eve there is a special ceremony where a bell is struck 33 times in memory of the 33 fighters who died for the restoration of Korea. Families get together to give each other blessings and there are traditional foods such as rice cake soup. Young people bow to their elders to show respect. Traditional games are played on New Year’s Day.

In Taiwan they celebrate the Chinese New Year and the boss in each company treats his employees to a big meal and a lottery game. Everyone wins a prize of at least 50 dollars. But there is a snag. According to tradition, the boss sets a whole chicken in the middle of the table. After he has finished his speech, he rotates the tray to show he is ready to start eating. Then you had better make sure the chicken's head is not facing you: if it is, it means the boss dislikes you, and you will be fired after the Chinese New Year!

Thailand celebrates New Year on April 13th. Thai people play with water, throwing it on each other. It's also a Thai custom to respect senior citizens, so most people go back to their hometowns to visit their parents and grandparents to ask for good luck and blessings. Children are usually given money to buy whatever they want as they like everything to be new when the New Year comes – new things are a good sign for starting life again.

In Vietnam the start of the New Year is the beginning of ten days of celebration. Everyone comes back to their family if they have gone away. On the first day at midnight, the grandmother or mother in each family has to light firecrackers to receive and welcome the New Year. Then they go to sleep to wait for the sun to rise. When the sun rises, they put on new clothes. The grandparents sit on a chair in front of the parents to wish them a happy new year and a long life. Then the parents do the same for their children.

Hit enter to search