“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
New Year’s Eve is a massive celebration across the globe. Whether we’re thinking ahead to new opportunities, celebrating 12 months of success, or looking to drown those sorrows and try again next year, December the 31st is always one to remember.
But it’s not all snogging, fireworks and singing, as there are a whole host of weird and wonderful New Year’s traditions taking place around the world. Here, we’ve listed 10 of the most unbelievable that our team have come across. Enjoy!
In many rural areas of Belgium, it has become customary for farmers to bless their cattle and wish them a Happy New Year. This tradition is said to bring luck for the upcoming year, and probably also cheers the cows themselves up, on an otherwise uneventful day for livestock.
More, um, conventionally, Belgian New Year’s celebrations involve smooching at the strike of midnight, as well as setting off fireworks to usher in the New Year. Children of Belgium get in on the act too, by writing letters and cards to their loved ones, which are read out on New Year’s Day. Presumably the cattle miss out on this bit.
If you were scared by that scene in The Revenant, Romania may just be somewhere to avoid visiting over the New Year. People across the nation wear real bear skins and dance through the streets to ward off evil spirits, accompanied by the sound of pan pipes and military drums.
Now this alone would be enough to scare off any evil spirits we know of, but just to be sure, the Romanians also include a babushka carrying a bear cub in the rituals – because why not? Expect to see everyone from young children to elderly men and women taking part in this truly unique tradition.
Many divers in Siberia have been known to usher in the New Year by planting fir trees in icy water. Amongst a number of select spots, Christmas trees are routinely planted at the bottom of Lake Baikal, the World’s deepest.
According to some of the participants of this bizarre tradition, it’s just better to celebrate the New Year underwater. What’s more – again in the eyes of select locals – planting trees at the bottom of lakes is fun for people and fish alike. On one especially impressive instance in 2014, divers ventured into minus 45 degree water in the Lena River in order to plant a New Year’s Christmas tree.
In Belarus, you’ll find slightly, shall we say wilder, New Year’s celebrations. The single ladies play a number of games during the annual festivities, one of which sees piles of corn placed on the ground in front of each maiden, before a rooster is set loose to choose a pile. The lucky lady whose pile the cockerel chooses is said to be the next to get married in the upcoming year.
In another game, married women have to hide items around their homes, which single women must find. If you find bread, your luck is in and you’ll marry a rich man, if you find a ring, your future partner will be handsome.
From weddings to Burns Night, the Scots love a party; New Year’s Eve is no exception. Possibly the biggest of all Scottish celebrations, the Hogmanay sees “experts” swing fireballs around their heads in a ritualistic display, cheered on by locals who turn up in droves to witness the display.
As well as looking like the sort of thing health and safety operatives see in their nightmares, the flaming balls are said to bring sun and purification to the New Year. Following the fireballs ceremony – which is carried out by dedicated groups – New Year’s Eve sees fireworks and dancing across the nation, to rival the party atmosphere anywhere else in the UK.
In Switzerland, one tradition is to let a drop of cream – or in more modern times a dollop of ice cream – land on the floor. This is said to bring a year of luck, characterised by abundance and symbolised by the overflowing cream.
You’ll also find a lot of people dressed up in costumes in Switzerland over the New Year. This, according to tradition, drives away bad spirits and welcome in the good ones. If you’re looking for a more traditional New Year, however, no need to worry. Cities like Zurich see fireworks displays and music played into the night on December 31st. We can’t guarantee there’ll be ice cream on sale at this time though…
In a tradition which could scare even the most fearless of scarecrows. Ecuadorians see in the New Year by burning effigies of who they see as sinners from the past year. The burning of these dolls – often with their sins labeled – represents the diminishing of their evil acts, ushering in (literally) a brighter New Year.
Effigies are made by people filling old clothes with paper and newspaper, and adding a mask as the face (as you can imagine, they’re less than ultra-realistic). Shops in Ecuador are filled with masks prior to the New Year, many of which are made in the likeness of famous people such as presidents and political figures.
We’ve all been there, wondering just how popular we really are with our nearest and dearest. Well, luckily for the people of Denmark, they’re able to find this out every New Year’s Day, with a quick peek at the broken china atop their doorstep.
The custom in Denmark is that, should you chip an item of crockery though the year, don’t throw it away like a normal person. Instead, save it for launching at your friends’ and families’ houses on New Year’s Eve. Probably the most violent way to show affection that we’ve ever heard.
The site of shining red Pomegranates is one you’ll see a lot in Turkey, in particular within the country’s biggest city of Istanbul. The city’s inhabitants love the fruity, seedy oddity, which is used in everything from dyes and leather-care, to making juice and flavouring grenadine.
What’s more, the fruit symbolises new beginnings to many, with the red standing as a human heart (meaning fertility) and the seeds representing prosperity. So what better way for the Turkish to celebrate the New Year – and earn themselves a lucky next 12 months – than by smashing fresh Pomegranates on the floor? The more pieces the fruit breaks into, the more good luck you’ll have in the New Year, apparently.
Although one of the world’s most controversial – and downright dangerous – annual celebrations, it’s hard to look past events in the Hillbrow suburb of Johannesburg when looking for unbelievable New year’s Traditions. In this ritual, it has become customary for inhabitants to throw belongings out of the high-rise buildings in which they live, as a way of saying goodbye to unwanted belongings.
Police and soldiers nowadays attend and monitor these events, where fridges and ovens have plummeted to the ground, along with fireworks and even bullets in the past. Not one for the tourists this, but certainly one of the World’s most bizarre New Year’s traditions.