11 Ways to Make Your New Year Lucky With These Traditions from Around the World

Some of these will feel really good, after the chaotic 2020 we've endured

champagne and flutes on ice

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As the clock strikes midnight around the world on December 31, countries following the Gregorian calendar will usher in a New Year. It’s safe to say that it feels well past time to bid 2020 adieu. We might not know what the future holds, but it’s hard to imagine anything crazier than these past 365 days of a global pandemic, UFO sightings, murder hornets, and Tiger King.

While navigating the close of this particularly strange chapter, we’re finding ourselves wondering just how best to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome 2021? Sure, if we’re all staying home to stay safe, there are some New Year’s Eve traditions that we can expect to remain, especially for anyone celebrating in the US. Fireworks, champagne, a glittery ball drop, and maybe a midnight kiss are all to be expected. But around the world, countries and cultures all have their own ways to ring in the New Year, and we’re eyeing up the ones that we can adopt and test out for ourselves.

We’ve sourced some of the best global celebrations that are meant to bring good luck in love, health, and prosperity for the year ahead. And best of all, some can easily be done at home.

  • 01 of 11

    Eat Grapes

    platter of green grapes

    Reka Biro-Horvath / Unsplash

    In Spain, they eat one grape for each chime of the clock at midnight, all in the name of 12 lucky months ahead.

    In the Philippines, they follow a similar tradition. Some will also eat 12 grapes at midnight, but anything round is said to bring good luck for the New Year. This is because the circular shape is meant to represent coins and invite prosperity. Some will create centerpieces made of round fruits to adorn their tables, while others dress in polka dots.

  • 02 of 11

    Smash Something

    smashed plate on doorstep

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    In Denmark, revelers smash unused plates on their doorstep for good luck, while in Johannesburg, people throw furniture out the windows to signify their new start. Think of it as a very literal interpretation of “out with the old, in with the new.” 

  • 03 of 11

    Read the Signs

    tin melting for fortune telling

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    In Finland, as a way to predict the future, people cast molten tin in water and wait for the metal to harden. Once a shape is formed, they look for the signs. A heart might mean love, while the shape of a ship might mean travel. It’s like reading tea leaves for the hardcore.

  • 04 of 11

    Get Dressed Up

    child in bear costume

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    In Romania, people dress as bears—protectors and healers of Romanian lore. While in costume, they dance to scare away the evil spirits, ensuring a happy and healthy future.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Ring the Bells

    bells

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    In Japan, they ring bells 107 times at the close of the old year and once after midnight, to start the new year. This is a part of the Japanese ritual of purification and renewal known as the “Joya no Kane.” As a representation of the cleansing of 108 worldly passions, the 108 rings are said to purify participants and listeners, ensuring a clean slate for the coming year.

  • 06 of 11

    Light a fire

    fire pit

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

    In Panama and Ecuador, effigies of well-known characters and politicians, called muñecos, are burnt as a symbol of the old year.

    Similarly, the Scottish celebration of Hogmanay incorporates bonfires and what might be the best way to enact social distancing during this year’s celebrations. People swing giant fireballs on poles as symbols of the sun, also meant to purify the coming year. As a bonus for 2020, this sounds like a foolproof way to ensure 6 feet of distance.

    Unfortunately, the other Scottish staple of Hogmanay is called  “first-footing,” and this might not work so well in a socially distant world. The goal is to be the first person to step foot in the homes of your loved ones, ideally with a gift.

  • 07 of 11

    Eat lentils

    bowls of lentils and beans

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

    In Brazil, lentils are meant to represent money, so eating them at the start of the year brings hope of good fortune in the year ahead. 

  • 08 of 11

    Don your best undies

    bra on a hanger

    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell

    Elsewhere in Brazil, others insist that it’s not what’s in your belly but on your body—special underwear is a popular option in Brazil and throughout Central and South America. Red is said to bring love, while yellow is meant to bring prosperity.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Take a suitcase walk

    person walking with a suitcase

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    Throughout South America, travel lovers will go on a “suitcase walk.” This involves literally walking around with an empty suitcase to signify the adventures ahead. Considering all the cancelled trips of 2020, this one is high on our list for this year.

  • 10 of 11

    Look to the onion

    onions

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    In what might be the worst way to wake up at the start of the New Year, parents in Greece tap their children on their heads with an onion—possibly the same one that was hanging on their front door the night before. This is because in Greece, the onion is seen as a symbol of rebirth.

  • 11 of 11

    Make a resolution

    goals planner

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    While New Year’s resolutions seem like a modern phenomenon born of the “new year, new you” mindset, they actually date all the way back to the Babylonians. But while the original resolutions were thought to keep believers in good standing with the gods, modern day resolutions persist around the world and cover everything from love to health to careers to education. 

So, whether you plan to kick your year off by knocking an onion on your offspring’s head, eating something round, or making a resolution you may or may not keep, here’s to a 2021 that brings us all the luck and love we could ever want.