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International New Year’s Traditions

A look at New Year’s around the globe

November 13, 2017

Across the world people welcome the new year by celebrating with their friends and loved ones. All cultures find optimism in the prospect of the coming year, and each culture has their own traditions relating to it.

USA

Many are familiar with America’s New Year's traditions, but very few are familiar with the origins.

Perhaps the most well-known of American New Year’s traditions in the annual ball drop in New York City. Every year in Times Square, a large, decorated ball descends 77 feet on a flagpole at the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time.

According to timessquarenyc.org, the first ball drop was hoisted in 1907 with the design made of iron, metal, and 100 25-watt lightbulbs, The creator, an immigrant metalworker Jacob Star, also formed a sign making company which became responsible for lowering the ball.

The ball drop has occurred annually every year since, except for 1942 and 1943, due to World War II. Other states in America have made their own versions of the ball drop, such as Georgia’s “peach drop” in which, a giant replica peach is dropped at the stroke of midnight.

Latin America/Spain

When the Spanish came to America, they influenced the pre-established culture greatly, introducing many New Year’s traditions that are still practiced today.

A common practice is to eat 12 grapes only during the countdown for the new year: one for good luck each month, according to npr.org.

In Mexico, the more superstitious practices of eating lentils the whole day; sweeping toward and dumping a bucket of water outside to expel the ‘bad’ from the household; and wearing special colored underwear for luck, such as red for love and yellow for money are common.

United Kingdom

New Year's celebrations in the UK are rich in area’s history according to projectbritain.com. At the stroke of midnight when Elizabeth Tower’s Big Ben chimes in London, people link hands with their kin and sing “Auld Lang Syne,” an old Scottish song that translates to “times gone by.”

Many years ago, people partook in a tradition, “the first foot,” in which the first person to enter a household would bring coal, bread and money inside to signify good prospects in the coming year. They would take out a pan of ash to signify the end of the last year.

People may also be gifted a Welsh “calennig,” an apple that has been propped up on three sticks and adorned with cloves and dried fruit.

Japan

According to Japan Monthly Web Magazine, in Japan, it is customary to visit a Buddhist temple on the night of Dec. 31. During this time, a large bell will be rang 107 times, and once more after the stroke of midnight, symbolizing the 108 human sins presented in Buddhist belief. Many people wait in line for a chance to ring the bell.

There are many foods that Japanese people also associate with the New Year, such as mochi (sweet rice cake), soba (buckwheat noodle), and osechi-ryori (a meal consisting of many small parts.)

Nigeria

According to 123newyear.com, in Nigeria, New Year’s is truly the time to forget the past with many people taking vows to end rivalries and turn past foes into friends. Also, regardless of one’s faith, prayers are offered to the supreme Lord for the coming year.

The biggest events are annual masquerade parties held on New Year's Eve. The Nigerian people see these lively parties and extravagant costumes as a way to bring good spirit and cheerfulness into the new year.

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