Wherever you are in the world, one thing is universal: the new year is a time of joy, celebration, and new beginnings. However, not every country celebrates this special time of the year similarly. While some common customs can be found worldwide, such as watching fireworks and gathering with your family, others are more unusual. From spending the night in a cemetery to predicting the future with potatoes, here are some of the strangest yet wonderful ways people around the world ring in the new year.
Ecuador: Burn the effigies
If you can visit Ecuador on the day of New Year’s Eve and see local people burning an effigy of Batman on a street corner, don’t be taken aback. These effigies, often made to resemble famous people such as politicians and celebrities or popular cartoon characters, symbolize all the misfortunes that happened in the previous year. It is believed that by burning the effigies, people can leave the bad things behind and welcome a new year.
Turkey: Smash a pomegranate
The new year is all about hope and a fresh start, so there is no surprise that most New Year’s traditions and practices revolve around bringing good luck to your life. Because pomegranates are considered a symbol of prosperity in Turkey, it is believed that smashing a pomegranate in front of the house can ensure good fortune in the upcoming year. If you don’t have a pomegranate, rest assured that sprinkling some salt at the front door may also do the job.
Colombia: Fortune-telling with potatoes
Have you ever wondered what the future has in store for you? According to a Colombian traditional belief, you can divine the future with three potatoes.
In Colombia, it’s a tradition to put three potatoes under your bed before going to sleep on New Year’s Eve — one fully peeled, one half-peeled, and one unpeeled. When you wake up, reach underneath and randomly choose a potato without looking. If you take the unpeeled one, you will likely be flush with cash this year. If you take the half-peeled one, you’re going to do so-so financially. And if you take the fully peeled tater, you better manage your money more carefully because challenges await ahead.
Estonia: Eat a lot of meals throughout the day
If you are a food lover, you’ll love spending your New Year’s in Estonia. Estonian people often eat a whopping seven, nine, or even 12 meals on the last day of the year. These numbers are considered lucky, and eating many times throughout the day indicates that you’ll have a year of abundance and great health.
If you’re worried that you can’t finish that much food, don’t worry. Another New Year’s tradition in Estonia is to always leave out a portion for the visiting spirits of their ancestors.
Germany: Melt lead to predict the future
If you wonder what your life will be like in the future, try another fun fortune-telling tradition popular in Germany — “Bleigiessen” (lead pouring).
Preparation for Bleigiessen is quite cheap and easy. All you need are a candle, a spoon, a bowl of cold water, and a piece of lead (or some less toxic alternatives like wax or tin). Otherwise, you can purchase a ready-made “Bleigiessen” kit, as it may not be easy to find pieces of lead lying around nowadays. Light the candle, put the piece of lead on the spoon, and hover over the flame. When the lead has melted, pour it into cold water and use your imagination to guess what the shape means. For example, if you get a round, ball-like shape, congratulations, good luck is coming your way next year.
Denmark: Jump down from a chair
To most of us, “leap into the New Year” is just a figurative expression. The Danes, however, take this term quite literally.
“Hoppe ind i det nye år,” meaning “to leap into the New Year,” is a tradition in Denmark. As the clock ticks down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, people will climb on a chair or sofa and then jump down when the clock strikes 12. This tradition is believed to bring good luck for the coming year.
Chile: Spend New Year’s Eve at the cemetery
Since New Year’s is always associated with joy and hopefulness, it’s hard to imagine spending this time of the year in a place like a cemetery. However, in the city of Talca, Chile, it’s a common practice to spend the last night of the year in the cemetery.
On the night of New Year’s Eve, local people bring some food and drinks with them to the graveyard, light a fire, and wait for the new year to come next to their deceased loved ones. Many actually sleep in the graveyard. While it might sound bizarre at first, those who undertake this tradition believe it brings peace to their souls and a chance to reflect on their life.
South Africa: Throw old furniture out of the window
As the new year approaches, it’s a common practice to clean our home and get rid of old stuff to prepare for a great start. However, in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, people have taken house cleaning to the next level. They throw away old furniture. Not just small, soft objects like blankets or pillows, but sometimes you’ll even see a sofa or refrigerator flying out of an apartment. So many people have been injured by these flying objects that police now have to patrol the streets during New Year’s Eve and Day to keep residents from chucking their furniture out the windows.
Brazil: Wear white clothes
The color white is seen as the symbol of peace and harmony worldwide. That’s why it’s a tradition in many places to wear white clothes during weddings and other special occasions.
Because white is also often linked to a new beginning, it’s the most popular color in Brazil during New Year’s celebrations. In this beautiful South American country, people often wear white outfits and celebrate New Year’s Eve on the beach, where they deliver spiritual offerings (usually white flowers and candles) to lemanjá, the queen of the sea, to receive her blessings for the year to come.