Different New Year’s traditions around the world

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From eating a spoonful of lentils in Chile to daring an ice-cold plunge in Scotland, communities across the globe unite in a shared spirit to celebrate New Year in unique, traditional ways, bidding farewell to the old and embracing the new with a resounding cheer.

Post Hatsuhinode, millions embark on visits to temples and shrines during the following three days, Fushimi Inari Taisho in Kyoto being one of them.

Brazil and Chile

In Brazil and Chile, beach celebrations take centre stage. Following the stroke of midnight, locals partake in a unique ritual: jumping seven waves while making seven wishes. This homage to Yemanja, the water goddess, requires participants to wear all-white attire, symbolizing purity. Chile shares a similar coastal tradition, rooted in the customs of Italian immigrants. As the clock strikes twelve, lentils, believed to attract prosperity due to their coin-like shape, become a focal point on dinner tables. A peculiar twist follows—after indulging in lentils, participants ascend to a higher spot and consume seven forkfuls. This practice is thought to secure financial fortune throughout the upcoming year.

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How to partake: Visit the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro or Viña del Mar in Chile, donning white attire to join locals in the tradition of jumping seven waves while making seven wishes. Plan a homestay in Chile to join a local family as they eat three plain spoonfuls of plain lentils to bring in wealth.

Japan

In the Land of the Rising Sun, the onset of the New Year can be clocked with the practice of Hatsuhinode, which can be described as inviting the locals and visitors alike to welcome the dawn of the new year by witnessing the first sunrise. Believed to herald good fortune, people rise early and converge on beaches or hills to absorb the symbolic beginning of a prosperous year. Post Hatsuhinode, millions embark on visits to temples and shrines during the following three days, Fushimi Inari Taisho in Kyoto being one of them. Another tradition is indulging in a warm bowl of soba noodles takes centre stage, with origins dating back to the Kamakura period. Tied to a compassionate gesture of a Buddhist temple distributing noodles to the less fortunate, the tradition signifies a literal break away from the old year.

How to partake: Join locals in the annual tradition of hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year. Choose a popular shrine like Meiji Shrine in Tokyo or Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto for a vibrant celebration. Queue up for a prayer at Tsuruoka Hachimangu in Kamakura. Embrace Japanese entertainment by tuning in to the popular music program “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve.

New York, USA

The heart of New York City is a pulsating destination where people flock with anticipation to see the iconic ball drop at Times Square—an emblematic tradition that has defined the since 1907. A minute before the stroke of midnight, the world watches as thousands of New Yorkers converge at Times Square to witness the colossal ball gracefully descend, marking the exuberant commencement of the New Year.

How to partake:

After attending this unmissable event, go on to see the glittering lights of Central Park, take a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, or dine at one of the city’s diverse restaurants offering special New Year feasts.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland extends its New Year’s celebration into a three-day extravaganza. Commencing on the 30th of December, the festivities kick off with a candle-light procession, where locals and visitors alike parade through the historic streets, creating a river of light that winds its way to the iconic Edinburgh Castle. As night falls, the sky over the castle erupts into a brilliant display of fireworks. On New Year’s Eve, the streets teem with thousands of revellers, joining in the jubilation and singing the timeless “Auld Lang Syne” as the clock strikes midnight.

How to partake: The Loony Dook, an annual New Year’s Day event, sees participants taking a daring plunge into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth. Named for the combination of “Loony” (short for “lunatic”) and “Dook” (Scottish for “dip” or “bathe”), this tradition begins with a must-watch Dookers’ Fancy Dress Parade.

Greece

Podariko—a Greek New Year tradition can be defined as a series of symbolic rituals involving pomegranates—a symbol of luck, prosperity, and fertility. As midnight approaches, homes go dark and empty. An individual, chosen by fate, reenters the house with their right foot, believed to usher in blessings for the family. The ceremony extends as a second participant cradles a pomegranate, smashing it against the door. The abundance of juicy seeds measures luck, promising greater fortune for the household in the new year.

How to partake: Hop to the Acropolis in Athens as the clock strikes midnight and join locals in cities and villages for community-led celebrations. Observe Saint Basil the Great on January 1 with the vasilopita tradition, cutting a special cake in the first minutes of the New Year, with a hidden trinket blessing the finder with good luck for the year.

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