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How to Celebrate New Year’s Eve Around the World

Discover New Year’s Eve celebrations worldwide – from dazzling fireworks to cultural traditions. Your global guide to ringing in the New Year!

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Fireworks above Treasure island in San Francisco.

This article was updated on 12/20/2023.

The New Year is always an exciting time to make resolutions and start fresh. Of course, the end of 2023 cannot come soon enough.

From fancy dinners and champagne to watching the ball drop in New York, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve here in the U.S.

However, all countries have their own unique traditions to bring in the New Year. Here are some of the ways that countries across the globe commemorate the New Year. 

Japan

On New Year’s Eve, families in Japan will spend the day making mochi, a sweet treat made from rice. In the evening, they will eat soba noodles at midnight, which symbolize prosperity and good fortune.

Temple bells ring across the country on New Year’s Eve, each bell ringing 108 times. The ringing of the bells is said to free people of their sins throughout the year.

After midnight, many families will go visit a temple or shrine, marking Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the New Year. 

Spain

Receiving good fortune in the New Year is always important. In Spain and some Latin American countries, people will eat 12 grapes at midnight, one grape for each month of the year.

Eating the grapes is said to bring good luck and happiness. The big celebration takes place at Puerta Del Sol, a public square in Madrid, where people gather to watch the clock tower strike midnight and celebrate the New Year. 

Brazil

In Brazil, many people celebrate New Year’s Eve at the beach. Jumping through 7 waves and making a wish for each wave is a sure way to receive good fortune in the New Year. Another tradition is throwing flowers into the sea.

If the flowers float out into the ocean, then you will have a good year. If they come back on the tide, well, that’s another story. 

Austria

In Austria, New Year’s Eve is called Sylvesterabend. Pigs are a symbol of good luck, so families will decorate the dinner table with marzipan pigs and eat pig roast for dinner.

One of the main events of New Year’s Eve is the Grand Ball, which takes place at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. The Ball consists of ballet performances, a gala dinner, and classical music. 

Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.
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Italy

The traditional New Year’s Eve dish in Italy is ‘cotechino con lenticchie’, consisting of pork and lentils.

The lentils symbolize wealth and pork symbolizes prosperity. For dessert, Italians eat chiacchiere, fried pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with honey. 

Scotland

Scotland has a unique, and maybe somewhat dangerous, tradition to bring in the New Year. The main event on New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay, is the Stonehaven Fireball Festival which begins at midnight.

Revelers will march through the streets while swinging fireballs. The fire is said to fend off any bad spirits for the New Year.

Those not at the fireball festival may be found at a local pub or brewery on New Year’s Eve.

Philippines

In the Philippines, there are various New Year’s Eve traditions associated with luck. Wearing polka dots is said to bring wealth and good fortune, because of the belief that circles can attract money.

Making noise by playing instruments or banging on pots and pans is supposed to ward off any evil spirits. Similarly to Spain, 12 pieces of fruit are an important part of the evening.

However, in the Philippines, the fruit isn’t required to be grapes; any round fruit will do. Eating the fruit is also meant to bring prosperity and wealth in the New Year. 

New Year's Eve 2014 in Epcot.
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Ecuador

Ecuador has a unique way of celebrating New Year’s Eve (hint: fire is once again involved). Around midnight, communities gather to light bonfires and burn paper effigies, typically representing politicians and other public figures.

The purpose of this tradition is to get rid of any bad energy in hopes of a prosperous New Year. 

Greece

In Greece, New Year’s Day resembles Christmas because it is the name day of Vassilis, the Greek Santa.

Children go caroling in their neighborhoods, gifts are exchanged, and for dinner, families typically enjoy roast lamb.

The real showstopper is dessert: a cake called ‘the Vasilopita’ is baked with a coin hidden inside, and the person who finds the coin in their slice of cake will have a prosperous year.

Another unique tradition in Greece is to hang an onion outside on your front door, which symbolizes growth in the New Year.

Hopefully, some of these family traditions will be able to continue safely, despite the chaos of the pandemic. Here’s to the end of 2023 and a joyous 2024!