In America, we celebrate New Year’s the way we celebrate most things: with parties, booze, and snacks, and watching a giant shiny ball drop from the sky. That’s all pretty normal, except for the giant shiny ball part. Here are some ways people around the world ring in the New Year that might sound strange to us but are totally normal if you’re in the know.
1. Jumping off chairs.
You could kiss somebody at midnight, or you could do like they do in Denmark and literally jump into the new year by jumping off of a chair or the couch.
2. Throwing dishes.
Also in Denmark, some people throw old plates at their friends’ doors. The more plate shards you find on your porch in the morning indicates you’re a great person.
3. Quickly eating 12 grapes.
At midnight in Spain, people eat 12 grapes in rapid succession, ideally one grape each time the clock chimes (and one for every month of the year). It’s supposed to ensure good luck for the year ahead.
4. Eating extra-long noodles.
As if anybody needed an excuse to eat over-long, super-tasty noodles, but it’s a New Year’s Eve tradition in Japan to eat special soba noodles called toshi-koshi (“from one year to another”) at midnight. The length symbolizes, and hopefully grants the eater, longevity.
5. Playing with molten lead.
This activity from Germany involves plunging globs of molten hot lead into ice-cold water. The lead quickly forms into a weird abstract shape, but they all have meanings. If the lead forms into the shape of a heart or a ring, for example, it portends new love in the new year.
6. A game of “hide the almond in the pudding.”
No, that’s not a euphemism. In parts of Norway and Sweden, families or friend groups whip up a big batch of rice pudding and hide a single almond inside. Whoever winds up with the almond in their pudding bowl foretells a lucky upcoming year.
7. Trading stuff with the neighbors.
“Auld Lang Syne” is the traditional New Year’s Eve song, even though nobody knows what it means. It was written by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns in 1788, which means New Year’s is a big deal in Scotland. Among the festivities: singing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight, of course, along with drinking scotch, and going “first footing,” which is going door-to-door and exchanging goods with neighbors. Traditionally, those goods are small amounts of coal, shortbread, salt, bread, and whisky.
In America, the Fourth of July is our Purge Day for minor explosives. Since they don’t celebrate America’s Independence Day in the Netherlands, they have to blow stuff up some other time — like New Year’s Eve.
9. Throwing a personal Burning Man.
In Ecuador, people build effigies of politicians and famous people out of newspapers, wood, or some other flammable material. It’s symbolically cleansing.
10. Wearing yellow panties.
If you’re partying in various sections of Latin America, you can either change into your lucky underwear before you head out for the night, or you can change into them when the clock strikes 12. Wear yellow underwear if you want to get rich in the new year, and wear red ones if you want to find love.