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New Year’s Celebrations From Around The World 


New Year’s is a great time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the possibilities of the new one. In the United States we celebrate this by…. dropping a giant glass ball in Times Square? It’s not just us who have unique New Year’s celebrations — countries all over the world have their own version of the ball drop to ring in the New Year. 

Here’s how people celebrate New Year’s in the following places around the world: 

1. Spain — Twelve Grapes 

You might have heard this through the grapevine, but Spain has an especially juicy New Year’s Celebration. It’s believed that if you eat one grape with each of the twelve-clock bell strikes at midnight of December 31st, you will receive good luck and happiness. It is thought to have originated in Madrid (where AIFS Abroad has many study abroad and international internship programs available) to celebrate the harvesting of wine. 

2. Ecuador — Lucky Underwear 

In some South American countries, people wear special underwear to bed on New Year’s Eve to bring them luck. Not only that, but different colored underwear is believed to bring you luck in different areas. For example, wearing red underwear will bring you love in the New Year, while yellow will bring you wealth. We’ve heard of keeping money in the underwear drawer, but this is something else!  

3. Scotland — Redding the House 

Think of this as Scottish spring cleaning, only during New Year’s and more intense. Parents allow their children to stay up until midnight, but there’s a catch: They must clean the entire house — and not just vacuuming and doing the dishes. Each cupboard and door must be scrubbed clean until they can practically see themselves in them. The tradition was started back when Scottish homes each had fireplaces in them, as the old ashes needed to be replaced. There’s something to be said for starting the new year with a perfectly pristine home!

4. South Africa —Throwing Out the Old 

This has a similar vibe as Scotland’s “Redding the House.” Every New Year’s, South Africans literally say “out with the old and in with the new” by throwing old furniture and appliances out the window. So, if you can’t seem to come up with a New Year’s resolution, at least you can just throw your old blender in the trash!

5. Greece — Hanging Onions 

While many cultures may still have their Christmas wreaths up on New Year’s, people in Greece replace theirs with onions to bring luck to the family. The onion has been believed to be a symbol of fertility and growth since the days of the ancient Greeks, and is hung on the door after the family gets back from their New Year’s Day church service. 

6. Ireland — Banging Bread Against the Walls 

The Irish have enough luck as it is, so their New Year’s tradition is focused more on warding off evil spirits — using the power of bread. The family bakes a batch of Christmas bread and goes wall-to-wall banging the loaf, which the evil spirits are powerless against. It might sound silly, but the Irish might argue it works every year. 

7. Germany — Dinner for On

No, the Germans don’t traditionally eat alone for New Year’s. Quite the opposite, actually! In 1963, the British sketch called Dinner for One aired on German TV for the first time and has aired on December 31st every year since. The bit behind the sketch is that an aristocratic woman celebrates her 90th birthday while her butler tries to cover up the fact that there are no guests and gets increasingly drunk. The butler implies that this happens every year. There’s that classic German humor for you.

If you still can’t decide on a New Year’s resolution, why not study abroad or intern internationally with AIFS Abroad? 

AIFS Abroad offers programs in all the of the above countries and more! With inclusions such as tuition, housing, insurance, excursions and activities, on-site staff, and emergency support, you’ll have a stress-free global education experience. You’ll learn all kinds of new holiday traditions from your host country or city, which can be incorporated into your own family’s traditions when you return home. Are you ready for a new you in the new year in a new city?