This blog post was updated on October 18, 2018.
It’s hard to believe that yet another year is coming to a close. On December 31, groups of friends and family members across the globe will convene to eat fine foods, drink champagne, watch fireworks and bestow warm wishes upon each other for a bright and prosperous 2011.
This Westernized way of ringing in the New Year has become quite commonplace, even in Eastern nations. But there are still many cultures around the world that hold fast to their traditions.
Bleigießen, Austria: In many German-speaking countries, the tradition of “Bleigießen” or lead-pouring is used to predict what fortunes, or misfortunes, will come in the New Year. Lead charms are heated in tablespoons and the molten lead is quickly poured into cold water. The shapes of the resulting solid formations determine what the coming year will bestow upon you – whether it’s money, love or illness.
Burning of Los Años Viejos, Ecuador: Ecuadorians take the saying “out with the old, in with the new” to a whole new level with their “Burning of Los Años Viejos” – a bizarre, voodoo-esque tradition. From Christmas through New Year’s Eve, street vendors sell hand-sewn dolls – some almost life-size – made with fabric, papier-mâché or old clothes stuffed with anything from sawdust to dirt and manure. The dolls, symbolic of the old year, are burned on New Year’s Eve night. The dolls may be dressed in one’s old clothes to symbolize the renewal of one’s sense of self in the New Year, or they may be dressed to resemble politicians and local figures to represent the end of their reign.
Bell Ringing, Japan: If you’re looking for a less hazardous way to eradicate the energy of the previous year to make room for the blessings of 2011, you might consider partaking in a popular Japanese Buddhist tradition. Every New Year’s Eve night, they strike a large bell 108 times to ward off the 108 sins of the flesh – the 108 human sensations and behaviors believed to be impious in Buddhist faith. The sound of the bell-ringing can be heard throughout Japan on December 31 and bell-ringing ceremonies are often held in Buddhist communities throughout the U.S.
Jumping for Growth, Philippines: People in the Philippines take the coming of the New Year quite seriously and, as a result, they have multiple traditions and superstitions that play a role in the way they usher in the New Year. Firstly, to foster good luck and productivity for the year ahead, families gather for a traditional New Year’s Eve meal featuring twelve fruits that represent the twelve months of the year. Secondly, it’s customary for the children to jump up and down 10 times to ensure they grow tall in the New Year. Finally, given the belief that roundness is symbolic of prosperity, many people wear polka dots on New Year’s Eve and carry round coins in their pockets to ensure good fortune in the yea ahead.