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How do they celebrate New Year in other countries?


3, 2, 1 — Happy New Year! Welcome to 2021. By the time you read this, almost everyone around the world will have started their new year.

But did you know there are lots of different traditional customs and traditions to celebrate the New Year?

They may not be celebrated the same way this year because of the Coronavirus, but here are eight different ways the New Year was celebrated around the world before social distancing:

South Africa

People marching the street all dressed up in pinks and blue suits.
Photo by G Bayliss licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Hanging out in South Africa for New Year’s? Well, prepare for some eye-popping firework displays and all-night parties!

Also, in Cape Town (the country’s second-largest city), people hold a special carnival. Groups sing and dance while wearing brightly coloured clothes and face paint.

And different neighbourhoods in the city have their own unique clothes and colours. Let’s celebrate in style!


Broken dishes.
Photo by Santo Chino licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Who knew that smashed dishes on your front porch were a good thing? Well, the people of Denmark!

Seeing a pile of broken dishes isn’t something to worry about, it’s usually left by a friend or family member and is actually a sign of good luck. Whew! People keep their broken dishes throughout the year for this special occasion.


Purple grapes hanging from vines.
Photo by tribp licensed CC BY 2.0

I hope you like grapes. You’re going to need them if you’re celebrating the Portuguese way.

This popular tradition involves eating 12 grapes (one for each month) as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. But you have to try to finish them all before the final stroke rings out.

Can’t stay up that late? Not to worry, Portuguese children get to visit houses and collect treats, including sweets, on New Year’s Day. Score!


Special Japanese floral arrangements.
Photo by Joel licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

If you’re celebrating the New Year in Japan, you better rest up — you’re in for a three-day festival! But it’s full of fun games, mountains of food and family visits.

And one special New Year tradition is to place a decoration called kadomatsu outside your home (usually two, one either side of the entrance).

A kadomatsu is made of pine branches, bamboo, and plum twigs. It symbolizes good luck and is believed to help welcome good spirits into your home.


Lots of coins!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

You may need tough teeth if you’re eating cake here on New Year’s Day. In Greece, January 1 is also the Festival of Saint Basil.

Saint Basil was a man who lived long ago, but many people still follow his teachings. So lots of Greek people have extra-special traditions on this day.

One of them is to make a cake called St. Basil’s Cake. The secret ingredient? A gold or silver coin. Whoever gets the slice of cake with the coin can expect to have a year full of good luck.


Giant stuffed doll wearing a beard and a cow boy hat.
Photo by Norello Camelo licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Better rinse out that spaghetti sauce stain on your white T-shirt. Many Brazilians believe wearing white clothes on New Year’s Eve will bring good luck and peace in the New Year.

They also make life-sized dolls with face masks. These dolls represent bad events from the past year, and they’re burnt at midnight on New Year’s Eve to release these bad memories and make room for some good ones.

South Korea

Rising sun on a beach in South Korea.
Photo by Paul B. licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Fancy heading to the beach on New Year’s Eve? Nah — it’s usually way too cold in Canada for that!

But in South Korea, the weather can be milder, so lots of seaside towns hold “sunrise festivals,” where people gather and watch the first sunrise of the New Year.

It’s believed that anyone who makes a wish at sunrise will have their wish come true. Nice! Some people also write down their hopes and dreams for the New Year, put them in balloons or lanterns, and then release them into the sky.


New years revellers blow on their noise makers in the Phillippines.
Photo by Bros. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ licensed CC BY 2.0

Make some noise! One New Year’s custom in the Philippines is to use noisemakers, blast music, and generally be as loud as you can.

People believe the noise will keep away any bad luck and evil spirits. Also, wearing clothes with circular designs is considered good luck. This is because the circle is a symbol of good fortune and money.

Time to break out your polka-dotted clothes!