Xanet Scheepers

Compiled by Xanet Scheepers

Digital Lifestyle Editor


10 of the most obscure New Year traditions around the world

From crawling under a table if you’re single in Argentina, to dressing up as a bear in Romania, these are some of the strangest rituals according to travel experts.


In South Africa on New Year’s Eve, many South Africans light their braais in the afternoon and party in the New Year with their brandy and coke, shooting fireworks at midnight.  

However, if you are ringing in the New Year in a foreign country, it might be worth reading up on their specific New Year traditions so you’re not caught off guard if someone stumbles into a bar dressed as a bear.

TravelLocal has revealed some of the lesser-known, obscure New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world, which really do put the South African brandy and braai to shame.

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Obscure New Year Traditions around the world

Burning effigies in Ecuador

Ecuadorians like to burn effigies (a model or statue that has been created, usually out of protest) of famous politicians, celebrities and other people associated with the previous 12 months. At midnight, they believe this will bring good luck for the next year and will help to leave behind any negative energies.

The ritual is known as ‘Los años viejos’ (the old years) and is a cause for celebration. While elsewhere on the streets, people dressed as the ‘widows’ of the burned effigies ask passing traffic for money. Though it is light hearted, it is best to carry change if you’re spending time in Ecuador over the new year.

Tossing old furniture out of the window in Naples

Neapolitans like to go one step further when it comes to the mantra of ‘out with the old and in with the new’ at New Year.

Throwing out your old possessions symbolises that you are ready to embrace the fresh year ahead.

Naples residents have reportedly thrown everything from toasters to fridges from their balconies, so packing a helmet could be a good idea if you’re visiting on 31 December.

Eating 12 grapes at midnight in Spain

This tradition dates back to 1909, when there was a grape harvest so big that the King, Alfonso XIII, decided to give out the surplus to the masses to consume on New Year’s Eve.

The ritual is to eat one grape with each of the 12 chimes of the clock, to secure 12 months of health and happiness.

Breaking a plate in Denmark

If you need to get rid of a chipped plate, it might be a good idea to save it until New Year’s Eve in Denmark, to throw it at your friend’s door.

It is thought the more broken plates you discover outside your door, the more good luck you will have in the forthcoming year and the more friends you will have.

Throwing white flowers into the ocean in Brazil

This tradition is seen as an offering to the Goddess of the Sea, Yemanja. Locals carry out this custom, hoping she will grant their wishes for the following year.

Brazillians dress in white, and throw white flowers and candles into the ocean. Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro is a popular spot to witness this traditional practice.

Dressing up as a bear in Romania

One of the most seemingly bizarre New Year traditions across the world, in Romania, locals dress up in bear skins (these are now usually fake), and parade through the streets.

The festival known as ‘Ursul’, is said to be a pre-Christian ritual which is still practised today. It is believed that spotting a bear in your backyard in Romania signifies good luck and wards off evil spirits.

Sprinkling salt on the doorstep, and wearing red underwear in Turkey

In Turkey, people sprinkle salt outside their door at midnight which is believed to bring peace and prosperity into their homes for the year ahead.

For even more good luck, locals are said to buy and wear new red underwear on New Year’s Eve. Red is widely regarded as the colour of luck and good fortune in many cultures, so this colour underwear is worn to welcome in a new and fortunate year.

Sitting under a table, if you’re single in Argentina, Chile or Venezuela

In many Latin American countries, it is traditional for single people to crawl under a table at midnight, to be blessed with good luck in finding love in the new year. Who needs Tinder?

Singles stand in line as if they are about to catch a wedding bouquet, dancing and then crawling on their hands and knees from one end of the table to another. Couples cheer them on, and then adorn them with kisses, hugging and laughing.

Going for a freezing cold dip, in fancy dress, in Edinburgh

On New Year’s Day, thousands of Scots throw on fancy dress and go for a swim in the freezing Firth of Forth at South Queensferry in Edinburgh.

The tradition, known as the ‘Loony Dook’ has taken place since the 80’s, but only recently became part of the famous Hogmanay programme officially.

Melting lead in Germany

In Germany, it’s customary to heat small pieces of lead, then cast them in cold water and make a prediction for the year based on the shapes that are formed.

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