With the exception of a small handful, most cultures around the world observe some form of celebration for the beginning of a new year. Some follow the Gregorian calendar and celebrate on January 1st while other cultures follow a different calendar that may put the start of the new year on a different date but what remains the same is the purpose of celebration. So, since it is December 31st 2015 at the time of this writing, I thought it would be appropriate to look at some of the various traditions from around the world that people observe on New Year day, with an emphasis on the more magical or spiritually charged customs designed for a spiritually charged jump into a brand new year.
Germany holds New Years celebrations on the night of Dec. 31st and one custom is for families to gather in their homes and drop molten lead into a bucket of water and remove it when it has hardened and the shapes created in this way are then interpreted as symbols of various areas of life and what to expect in the coming year.
On Dec. 31st at the stroke of midnight, it is customary to eat twelve grapes quickly. One at each strike of the clock. This is said to bring good luck.
In Denmark people collect their chipped plates all throughout the year and throw them all at friends front doors on New Year’s Eve. It is said that the more broken pieces in front of their door, the more friends one will have in the coming year.
All throughout Japan on New Year day temple bells can be heard ringing loudly 108 times as this is believed to ward off evil spirits. If you are traveling through Japan you may also happen to notice beautiful, hand-woven straw ropes adorning front doors on many homes. This is said to bring good luck to that persons home.
In Trinidad, New Year’s Eve is called Old Year’s Night and on this night some folks say you should go to church and listen for a holy passage as it will tell you what the new year will hold. It is also believed widely that whatever events occur around a person on this day set a pattern of what the following year will hold for them.
There is a Scottish new year custom in the UK called “first footing”. It is believed that the first person (called the “first-foot” or “quaaltagh” in Manx Gaelic) to enter the home on New Year day will either bring good luck or bad luck for the home in the new year. Many households even plan ahead of time who will be the first-foot. A tall dark-haired male is said to bring the most good luck.
Obviously there are numerous traditions that I have probably left out but with so many out there, no one list will ever be all-encompassing but I just wanted to cover a few of my personal favorites. So if you have a tradition you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment! No matter what part of the world you are in, one thing is clear; New Year Day traditions are all about cleansing. This year instead of just making a new year resolutions list of things you want to get done, add in there what you need to get rid of and how to best jump into a brand new year, a brand new beginning.