Diverse New Year’s Traditions, Superstitions Across Cultures

Pop the champagne and pucker your lips for your midnight kiss. It’s time to bring in the New Year with new traditions!

Diverse New Year’s Traditions, Superstitions Across Cultures (Getty Images)

The commencement of the New Year represents a fresh start and an opportunity to embark on new journeys. During this time, people frequently engage in self-reflection on the preceding year, establish aspirations for the upcoming year, and formulate resolutions aimed at personal or life improvements.

If you were to ask a stranger what traditions they celebrate on New Year’s Eve, they would most likely speak on plans to watch the ball drop or share a kiss at midnight with their partner. But, have you ever wondered what other cultures do when it’s time to usher in the new year? My mother is from the Dominican Republic and my father is African American. So that means my multicultural household is superstitious by default (and YES, we follow these rules every year!)

  • In my home, we spend days before the New Year organizing and deep cleaning. You should never welcome the New Year in disarray because chaos will spill into the rest of your year! 
  • Collard greens and black-eyed peas. An African American STAPLE! This tradition started in the South and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity.
  • Making a lot of noise to “scare away” bad spirits. For most of my life, I assumed everyone would make noise to celebrate making it through another year. And while that is mostly true, tradition says banging pots and pans is a way to run evil spirits out of your home.
  • Eating 12 grapes at midnight! The “12 Grapes of Luck” is a Spanish custom that consists of eating a grape with every one of the twelve clock chimes at midnight to invite the New Year. Every grape and clock ring represents each month of the upcoming year. It’s also said if you eat them underneath the table, then you will have success in your love life!
@himynameispriya 12 grapes = 12 wishes 💫 Now, everytime I eat a grape, I’ll make a wish for the rest of my life#12grapes#12grapechallenge#newyears#newyearsresolution ♬ original sound – Priya Sharma

  •  Be particular about your underwear. I know this one may raise eyebrows.. But in Latin culture, we believe the color of your underwear will determine the outlook of your new year. Wearing yellow underwear is for prosperity, red or pink for love, green for hope, and white for peace. Just make sure that they are brand new, or it won’t come true! 
  • Running around your neighborhood with a suitcase manifests more traveling and vacations!
  • Have money in your hands, pockets or shoes once the clock hits 12 a.m. This signifies that money will flow to you easily within the upcoming months. In my younger years, my grandmother would walk around and hand everyone cash. (I always tried to get the $2 bill because I believe it’s more lucky!)
  • Burning sage is something that can be done year-round, but helps specifically during Dec. 31 to bring peace into your home.
  • Write down your affirmations, and make that vision board! It’s a fun way to manifest, and you can make a party out of it.

These are the customs that we complete in my house. But, there are so many unique traditions around the world! 

Brazil: In Brazil, it is common to relax at the beach on New Year’s Eve. Once the clock hits midnight, Brazilians fully drench themselves from head to toe as they jump into the ocean. It is said that they make seven wishes as they jump seven waves for the goddess spirit of the seven seas — Yemoja. 

France: The French have a custom of eating foie gras and drinking champagne all night. Champagne is said to be the drink of choice because the bubbly drink tends to “overflow” in abundance and joy. I think I’m with the French on this one. Pop the bottles! 

Haiti: While Jan. 1 is the start of the new calendar year, it is also Haiti’s Independence Day! Haitians celebrate by having soup joumou (pumpkin soup) on the first day of the New Year! This might also vary by home, but we also make ginger tea and/or Haitian hot chocolate and serve it with Haitian bread. The following day we celebrate our ancestors with altars  for ancestor’s day.” Woomy Michel shared her experience as a 24-year-old Haitian American. It is common for Haitians to visit other homes and swap soups as a kind act of service. 

Denmark: Now I have to be honest. If you’re throwing plates at my house, you and I might have a huge problem. But the good news is that in Denmark, it is believed that throwing plates at your loved one’s doorstep will bring them good luck. They say the more broken plates, the better!

The UK: During the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, it is customary for families in the United Kingdom to come together, eagerly anticipating the chimes of the Elizabeth Tower or Big Ben, the iconic clocktower at the Houses of Parliament, marking the arrival of the New Year. When the bells sound, it’s not uncommon to witness the creation of a large circle, where individuals join hands and joyfully sing songs. 

The concept of celebrating the New Year is a global tradition, observed by people around the world. While some of these traditions may seem odd to you, they generate a sense of unity and shared experience as people collectively mark the passage of time and the beginning of a new chapter. Whether or not you decide to adopt a new tradition this year, I wish you a Happy New Year!

Jeydah Jenkins (she/her) is from Newark, NJ, but is an Atlanta-based journalist who covers the arts and culture. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok: @JeydahFromJersey.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now
Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now