New Year’s Eve Traditions from Around the World

Take a trip around the world this New Year's Eve by reading about different traditions from different countries.

New Year’s Eve. A time for us to celebrate the previous year’s fails and triumphs. A time for us to make resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. A time for us to gather with friends and family, excited and eager.

New Year’s Eve is celebrated all around the world, but it’s no surprise that different countries celebrate in different ways. Read on to discover some of the most interesting New Year’s Eve traditions from different countries.


At the stroke of midnight, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells 108 times, an event known as joya no kane. 108 is significant because it represents the number of human desires there are, and ringing the bells is said to drive away negative emotions from the past year. The Japanese also eat Toshikoshi soba (year-end soba) and mochi.


The Chinese celebrate their New Year’s Eve in February this year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have special traditions! House cleaning happens a few days before the celebration. A huge feast at home is prepared in order to bring family members together, making the New Year’s Eve dinner one of the most important aspects of the celebration. There are also tons of fireworks, used to drive bad spirits out, lion and dragon dances, and beautiful decorations, like lanterns. Red envelopes with money inside are given as gifts.

new year's eve


On New Year’s Eve, be prepared to see a lot of round shapes. People will eat 12 round fruits, wear polka dots, and toss coins into pans. Circles are considered to bring prosperity.


Greeks will celebrate by playing card games, all day long. This time of year is considered to be the most auspicious, which is why you’ll also see people giving gifts, buying lottery tickets, and walking on mossy stones (to bring good luck, of course). There’s also the tradition of hanging an onion, which will bring happiness and prosperity into the new year, on the front door.


New Year’s Eve begins with Queen Margrethe’s speech at 6:00 pm sharp. After the speech the drinking and eating can begin. At midnight, a bunch of fireworks are lit off. There’s also a bunch of smashing of plates and glasses on family and friend’s doorsteps, to show affection, of course. People also jump off of chairs and “leap” into the new year.


In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, you eat 12 grapes (one grape for each chime of the clock). Each grape represents good luck for each month in the coming year. But beware! That clock chimes quickly, so most people can’t chew their grapes in time, meaning they won’t have good luck in the new year.

new year's eve

Latin America:

Countries in Latin America like Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela, wear different colored underwear (usually red or yellow) for luck. Colombian’s have an interesting tradition: carrying around empty suitcases for hopes of travel in the new year. In Panama and Ecuador, effigies of well known people (movie stars, politicians) are burned to ward off evil spirits.

United States:

In New York, Times Square specifically, there’s the famous ball drop, and of course, all the television converge leading up to it. There’s the countdown too, where people all over countdown the last 10 seconds of the old year. And of course, all of the kisses and shouting “happy new year”!

I highlighted a few of my favorite traditions from around the world, but there are so many more! Check out this article to see 50 New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world.

Happy New Year!


Also published on Medium.

Sierra is a junior studying international business and Spanish at Saint...