#6 will make you reconsider what you wear!

ways to bring in the new year

When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2018 – where ever you are in the world – there are two possible things that will happen.

If you are Cinderella, your carriage will turn back into a pumpkin and your horses will turn back into mice. 

If you are not a princess using magic to snag yourself a prince, then it means you will be celebrating the coming of 2019.

But how will you be doing it?

Here are 19 ways how 19 countries will ring in 2019.  Did your country make the list?


1) USA – Dropping The Ball

This is probably one of the most well-known traditions in the world.  The famous dropping of the ball in Time Square in New York City. But did you know that this tradition of using a ball to count down time is much older than that?

It started in the town of Portsmouth, England in 1829. 

They were originally used to help sailors keep time.  They would put a mechanism with a colorful ball on the tallest building in the town (usually the church steeple) at mid-day exactly each day.  Then the balls would slowly slide lower over the course of the day.

This way sailors would know what time it was and when to head back to town.

In 1907, in the United States, they banned the use of fireworks.  So, New York City had to find another way to celebrate New Years Eve.  One of the organizers of the celebration, Adolph Ochs, was a fan of these old-time pieces, so he convinced the organizing committee to use this as a substitute. 

The people loved it, and though fireworks were later legalized again, the tradition has stuck around since then.

Happy New Year in English:  Happy New Year! (this one is kind of easy)


2) Denmark – Vandalize Your Neighbors Door

In Denmark they bring in the New Year with organized vandalism.

Ok, not exactly.

A tradition in Denmark is to smash plates against your friend’s door to wish them good luck in the new year. The more smashed plates, the more friends you have, and the more luck you will have next year. 

While the exact history of this tradition is lost, many people relate it back to the European tradition from the middle ages, where people would break plates to either relieve the stress of a death of somebody close, or to release the excited energy of a celebration.

Happy New Year in Danish:  Godt nytår!


3) Samoa – Seeing Double

In Samoa, New Year’s Eve is all about the family.

To celebrate the New Year in Samoa they decorate their houses with flowers and exchange small inexpensive gifts.  But this is not the reason Samoa made our list of interesting celebrations.

In 2013, the government of Samoa moved their time zone to be the same as New Zealand.  But the other part of the country, American Samoa, wanted to stay with the US.  So that means, you can be one of the first people to bring in the new year in Samoa, then just hop over to the other part of the country and be one of the last people to celebrate the same year!

Happy New Year in Samoan:  Ia manuia le Tausaga Fou!


4) Philippines – Don’t Be A Square

The Filipinos have, what could be, a healthy way of bringing in the New Year.

To have good luck in the new year, they believe that you must put 12 round fruit on your dining room table. One for each month of the year.

This tradition was passed down to them by the Chinese and then adapted to match the western calendar, when the country was converted to Catholicism in the early 20th century.

Happy New Year in Tagalog:  Manigong Bagong Taon!


5) Netherlands – Bring In The New Year As An Ice Cube

The annual polar bear swim in the Netherlands is one of the newer “traditions” on this list. 

It was started in 1965 when a group of local swimmers in the Netherlands decided to go for a swim on a frigid New Year’s Eve. A local soup company, seeing an opportunity, decided to sponsor the event, which in turn attracted the press.

Now, the event has become a national tradition with over 10,000 people, who take the plunge each year. It is of course followed by a bowl of hot pea soup.

Happy New Year in Dutch: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!


6) Spain – Do You Know Victoria’s Secret?

You want to find love in the new year?

Well, if you are in Latin America, then the only thing you must do is wear red underwear when the clock strikes midnight. If you want wealth, buy yourself a pair of yellow underwear.

In Spain and in many parts of Latin America they believe that the color of the underwear you wear, when the new year starts, will determine the kind of year you are going to have.

We researched all over the web and asked our friends from Latin America how this tradition started, but could not find anything.  If you do know, please let us know in the comments below.

Happy New Year in Spanish: ¡Prospero Año Nuevo!


7) Japan – Ring My Bell!

In Japan they bring in the New Year with a tradition they call Joya no Kane.

For this tradition the priests ring the bells at the temples 108 times.  107 times to count down the arrival of the new year, and the last time (the 108th) in the new year.

Why 108?

In Japanese culture they believe that there are 108 “worldly desires” that every human has, and by ringing the bell you rid yourself of those desires for the next year.

Happy New Year in Japanese: Akemashite omedetou (あけましておめでとう)


8) South Africa – It’s Raining Couches

In the district of Hillbrow in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, they have an unusual, and arguably dangerous tradition each New Year.

They throw things away to make room for newer things in the new year.

Does that not sounds strange?

Here is the thing. These things can be anything from TV’s to couches. And when they throw it out, they literally throw it. 

It is not unusual to see a computer monitor or old gym equipment to be tossed from windows of apartment buildings many stories up. 

If you are walking around this area this year for New Year’s, keep your eyes open and your reflexes sharp.  You never know when you will need to dodge a falling piano!

Happy New Year in Afrikaans: Gelukkige Nuwe Jaar


9) Peru – Fireworks & Fisticuffs

The Takanakuy Festival is held by the Quechua tribes in the Chumbivilcas in the mountains of Peru.

The idea is simple.  Let it all out and bring in the new year without any burdens.

The way they do it, however, is by fighting with anybody you have a disagreement with. 

Like any good organized brawl, the event starts with days of drinking and is ended with men and women fighting to settle any disputes so everybody can start the new year as friends.

The town where this event is held has a population of about 250 people, but up to 5000 people from outside the town come each year to watch this unique “festivity”.

Happy New Year in Quechua: Allin wata kachun qanpaq!


10) Romania – Da Bears

In Romania they bring in the New Year with a dance. 

What makes it unique is that the dances are all inspired by animals and stories that revolve around them. 

The two most famous are the Dance of the Bear and the Dance of the Goat. 

In the Dance of the Bear 6 to 24 men and boys dance as bears and re-enact a play.  At the end of the pay all the bears are killed, but are then reborn. This rebirth represents the start of the new year with everything being new.

The Dance of the Goat is a similar scene with a goats, shepherds and devils.  Like the bear, the goat dies during this dance, but is again reborn.

Happy New Year in Romanian: An nou fericit!


11) Scotland – Do You First Foot?

In the Isle of Man they celebrate the new year by inviting a dark man to be the first person to enter their home in the new year.

This tradition is called “First Footing”.

According to legend, this tradition started during the time of the Viking invasions, where there was a saying that “if a blond with an axe crosses your door it is probably not going to be a good year”.

So even to this day, it is considered bad luck to have a blond man or women be the first person to enter your home after the New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year in Scottish: Haud Hogmanay! (before New Year) Neerday! (after New Year)


12) Colombia – Round The Block

Do you like to travel, then this tradition is for you.

In Colombia, and other parts of Latin America, there is a tradition for those who want to see the world.

At the stroke of midnight, take your suitcase (full or empty) and walk around your block.  They believe that by doing this you will be destined to travel the world over the next year.

Admittedly, this is much easier for people who live on small blocks.

Happy New Year in Spanish: ¡Prospero año nuevo!


13) Nigeria – Somebody Stop Me! 

In Nigeria, bringing in the New Year is a grand affair.

They bring it in with a large masquerade party.

The tradition is you come to the party dressed up as an animal or as a human with exaggerated features. After the celebration, the party goers head to the street and perform a high energy dance.

This dance is believed to scare away evil spirits and clean out the negative energy in one’s life.

It also spreads the message of love and peace for the following year.

Happy New Year in HausaBarka da sabon shekara


14) Chile – The Zombies Are Coming 

This tradition is not for the faint of heart.

In the city of Talca, Chile, many of the residents spend the night in the cemetery.

While that may sound scary, the reason is quite sweet. They believe that this is the evening they can spend with their lost loved ones.

They spend the night in the cemetery in the hopes of keeping them company and for them to not feel lonely this one day each year.

Strangely, this is actually a pretty new tradition. It apparently only started in 1995 when a local family snuck into the cemetery at night to pass the night with a recently departed family member. This inspired others to do the same, and now it is a full-blown fiesta with drinks, music and fireworks.

Happy New Year in Spanish: ¡Prospero año nuevo!


15) Turkey – Paint The Town Red

In Turkey, they have a similar tradition to the Danish, in that it involves leaving something at your, or somebody else’s door.

In Turkey they believe that to bring abundance in the new year, you should smash a pomegranate at your door.

If that seem too messy, you can also just sprinkle some salt at your door.

While Turkey (or what used to be called the Ottoman Empire) has been around for millennia, the New Year’s tradition is relatively new, since they only adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1935.

Happy New Year in Turkish:  Mutlu yeni yıllar!


16) Ireland – Did You Miss A Spot?

Like many other traditions, the one celebrated in Ireland represents a fresh start in the new year.

To usher that in, the Irish tradition is to clean the house and have it spotless, when midnight arrives.

Traditionally, this task was done by women and children, but in recent years men have been made to help as well (as is only right)

On a personal note, I think my wife thinks every day an Irish holiday, with how clean our house is.

Happy New Year in Irish:  Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit


17) Puerto Rico – Don’t Kick The Bucket

On the island of Puerto Rico water is an important part of life. During New Year’s Eve that is no different.

To scare away the evil spirits in the new year it is a tradition in Puerto Rico to throw a bucket of clean water out your window.

The water represents all the tears you have shed during the year for all the sad or bad events that have taken place.

By throwing the bucket of water out the window you are throwing them out of your life and starting anew.

Happy New Year in Spanish: ¡Prospero año nuevo!


18) Finland – Heavy Metal New Year

Are you ready to celebrate Uudenvuodenaatto (New Year in Finnish)? Then it means you have to get your tin ready for melting!

In Finland, there is a tradition of melting tin in a pan.

Then while it is molten you pour it all into a bucket of cold water.

The key is for you to pour at a constant rate so that it cools as one solid piece of metal. If you have multiple pieces of metal, then it means bad luck.

To add another layer to the tradition, depending on the shape and texture of the metal, they can read other things that will happen to you in the new year.

Kind of like tin fortune telling!

Happy New Year in Finnish:  Onnellista Uutta Vuotta!


19) Singapore – Wish Upon A Sphere, Not A Star

Wishing upon a star is so last century.

If you are in Singapore for New Year’s Eve, the best way to make sure your wish happens is to write it upon a wishing sphere, that is later made to float in the Singapore harbor.

This is also one of the newer traditions created to bring the city together in wishing for the best in the new year.

Happy New Year in English:  Happy New Year (official language of Singapore)


Does you country have its own way of celebrating the New Year?  Let us know in the comments below!


Ray is a third culture child who has lived and worked on 5 different continents and has trouble figuring out what his native language is.  When he is not running daily operations here at Live Lingua he moonlights as a semi-professional sword fighter. 

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