27 Unique New Year's Traditions From Our Readers - Atlas Obscura
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27 Unique New Year’s Traditions From Our Readers

Find a novel way to ring in 2019!

How are you going to ring in the new year?
How are you going to ring in the new year? Michael Elleray/CC BY 2.0

Happy New Year! It’s time again to break out the champagne and funny hats, because we made it through another 12 months (and given how this year has gone, that’s no small miracle). While in the United States, a dropping ball and the kiss of a loved one mark the passing of the year for most, there are all sorts of other traditions that are both festive and fascinating. To find out more, we asked our readers to tell us about their local rituals, and our excitement for the holiday has come back anew.

People told us about small rituals of domestic cleansing, ushering out the old year and welcoming in the new; various symbolic wishes for prosperity, like jumping over their wallet or getting their hair cut; and a whole slew of food-related traditions that sound both delicious and pretty lucky.

Check out a selection of some of our favorite submissions below, and if you have a unique New Year tradition you’d like to share, head over to our new Community forums and tell us about it! They all sound a lot more interesting than making another resolution!


christels/Public Domain

Jump! Jump!

“When I met my wife’s family, I learned that their tradition is to jump over their wallets on New Year’s Eve for good luck.” —Billy, Southern California

“Jump seven ocean waves!” —Monique, Salvador, Brazil

“My sisters and I used to stand on the coffee table or a chair and jump into the New Year when the clock hit midnight. I no longer stand on an item, and am not sure if my sisters still partake, but I still like to hop at midnight and then immediately curl up in bed. Although for Y2K we did have a sip of Korbel before jumping, just in case the world ended first. At least I know the new year started with some form of exercise, haha!” —Brandi, Leona Valley, California


Chris Oakley/CC BY 2.0

Lucky Delicious

“Eat 12 raisins all together at the same time and make a wish that becomes a resolution for the new year. [I’ve done this] at home with my family, since I was little. Fancy dinner with friends or family, champagne, raisins, and someone special to kiss and hug. I feel like a refreshment to start something, like a new opportunity to make things right and be happier.” —Joana, Portugal

“Food! Black-eyed peas and hog jowls and corned beef and cabbage for good luck.” —Buddy Oakes, Columbia, Tennessee

“On December 31st, at midnight, everyone in Spain has a grape with every one of the 12 bell strikes. Every TV network connects with the clock tower in Puerta del Sol, Madrid, where thousands of people gather to welcome the New Year. Although it is a relatively young tradition (it started in 1895), it has become a must for everyone in the country. Eating the 12 grapes at the same pace means you will have prosperity in the upcoming year. That is, if you don’t choke, of course. The bells strike slow enough to eat, but fast enough to swallow. Give it a try!” —Jorge Santo Tomás, Madrid, Spain

“On New Year’s Day, we always eat roast pork and sauerkraut for good luck in the new year. This is an old ‘PA Dutch’ (German) tradition. Usually it’s served with mashed potatoes and applesauce and horseradish for the pork. It’s supposed to ensure good luck in the new year.” —Wendy J. Diffendall, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

“In our household, it is thought to bring good luck for the coming year if the first male to enter the house eats some herring. I am the only one who likes herring so I get to uphold the tradition. Two years ago I did not do it for the first time in many years, and our barn burned down later that year.” —Dan Schonberg, Lake Odessa, Michigan

“I eat black-eyed peas and greens. I’ve done it all my life. It ensures prosperity.” —Robert, Memphis, Tennessee

“Growing up, we had corned beef and cabbage on New Year’s Day every year. I still observe the tradition. My family background is Welsh. It’s a nice meal to start off the new year right and less cliche than having it on St. Patrick’s Day.” —Bethany, Kansas

“Keep bread and money on the table on New Year’s Eve. It ensures that you have enough food and money for the new year.” —Jennifer, Southern California


Insomnia Cured Here/CC BY-SA 2.0

Marx Brothers, New Year’s Babies

“I make a big bowl of popcorn, a glass of wine, gather the cats and watch Marx Brothers’ movies. I invented it. It keeps me from thinking what an awful year the past year has been.” —SJ Wolfe, Worcester, Massachusetts

“Watching Marx Brothers movies. As a kid growing up in Chicago, my parents would host a poker party and I was banished to my bedroom with a little black-and-white TV. One of the TV stations would show a Marx Brothers marathon on New Years Eve for years, and it just stuck. Who doesn’t want to enter the new year watching a Marx Brothers movie?” —Jeff Smith, Houston, Texas


John Liu/CC BY 2.0

Out With the Old

“At the stroke of midnight I throw a glass of water out the front door of my house while taking 10 sips of champagne. It takes all the bad out of the house and one’s life.” —Jan, Woodbury, New Jersey

“Wear yellow underwear, or make a dummy out of cloth, dress it with old clothes and burn it at the turn of the new year. The first one brings good luck. For the second tradition, the dummy is supposed to represent the old year, and by burning it, you welcome the new year with a clean slate, so to speak.” —Berta Isabel Cortes, New York

“We fill a pot with water and dump it on the street at the stroke of midnight. It’s a Cuban family tradition. It cleans your house of negative energy.” —Gema Valdes, Miami, Florida

“Gather up all your loose change, and at midnight, make a wish for prosperity and throw the money out of the front door as fast as you can. I remember doing it when I was little, so I can’t say how long we had practiced it. Every year that you do this ritual, you may come into some draining events, but you will always have enough money to get by. But in the year that it was not done (I had three), you go way past your last dime and it is frightful.” —Sheryl May, Rochester, New York

“We don’t wash clothes on New Year’s Day. If you wash clothes, you will wash for a funeral in the new year.” —Carma Burke, Birmingham, Alabama

“At midnight, I open the back door to let the old year out and the front door to let the new year in. If there’s only one door, a window will suffice. My mom learned it from her mom, so this tradition is at least 60 years old. Clean slate!” —Kim, Michigan


SMU Libraries Digital/Public Domain

Get Loud

“I learned the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne and I sing it for real! It’s a lovely tune. I took it more seriously when I learned it was written by Robert Burns. It quickly makes me stand out as a weirdo once everyone trails off after the first phrase. Alone, tipsy, and fixated on finishing a task that no one else cares about; it’s a good way to start the year.” —Luke, Brooklyn, New York

“Going outside at midnight and banging on pots and pans with a spoon. It’s just general noise-making, but it’s also supposed to have something to do with luck/scaring away bad spirits. Also, the person with the darkest hair has to go out the back door and enter the front door carrying a loaf of bread for good luck in the next year. They’re celebratory rituals of luck.” —Kelly Delaney, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


CEphoto/CC BY 2.0

Keep it Clean

“The house must be cleaned top to bottom. Shower and put clean clothes on close to midnight. Leave a piece of cake by the front door for the first footer (they must be a tall, dark-haired person) to cross the threshold. Sit by an open window at midnight and listen for the bells (the town hall clock rings in the new year). This is tradition all over Scotland. By doing these things, it will mean you and your home will be clean all year, and the first footer brings luck to the home. Listening to the bells brings all of the family together at the start of the new year.” — Brian McMillan, Paisley, Scotland

“There is a southern Italian tradition where we have to be wearing a pair of new, red underwear. This is for both men and women. It’s always nice to have a pair of new underwear on.” —Laura Burson, Texas


Austin Kirk/CC BY 2.0

Baby Powder and a Haircut

“In Fiji it is tradition to throw water balloons and cover your friends with baby powder on New Year’s Day. Water balloons are just fun, and baby powder, I suppose, is symbolic of being a newborn.” — Ed Edwards, Sigatoka, Fiji

“In Chinese tradition, you would want to cut your hair before the turning of the year. Hair in Cantonese or Mandarin is a homonym with the word ‘wealth,’ so if you cut your hair during the new year period, you’re essentially parting ways with your wealth. You also never gift people shoes for new years. ‘Shoes’ is a homonym with the sound of sighing in Chinese, so if you gift someone shoes for New Year’s, they’ll be sighing all year. I’m getting my hair cut next week, and also trying to get my parents to get me new shoes for Christmas instead of New Year’s.” —Jessi N. Hong Kong