For most of us, New Year’s Eve consists of drinking, dancing and hugging strangers before staggering back home to start the New Year with a raging hangover. Other parts of the world are slightly more sophisticated when it comes to welcoming the coming year, whereas others use the night to indulge in seriously odd behavior. Check out 10 of the strangest traditions performed on New Year’s Eve.
1. Plate throwing
Waking up to broken crockery on your doorstep may sound alarming, but in Denmark it’s a sign that someone loves you. Danish people save up old plates throughout the year and then go out and fling them at friends and neighbour’s front doors on New Year’s Eve. A large number of plates signify that the household has a wide circle of friends.
2. Synchronized grape eating
Las doce uvas de la suerte, also known as the twelve grapes of luck, is a Spanish tradition that involves eating twelve grapes after the clock strikes midnight. One grape is supposed to be consumed every time the clock chimes to ensure prosperity and good fortune in the New Year.
3. Polar Bear Plunge
Brave Canadians choose to celebrate New Year’s Day by diving into freezing cold water in nothing but a swimming costume. The polar bear plunge is also practised in parts of North America. The Netherlands even have their own version known as ‘Nieuwjaarsduik’.
4. Empty suitcases
If your New Year’s resolution is to travel more, then carrying an empty suitcase around the block just might make it happen. In South America many people take to the streets with empty bags in the hope that the New Year will bring them the chance to travel to distant lands.
5. Psychic metal
Germany, Austria and Finland share a strange tradition of dropping molten metal into water to predict the future. If the metal takes the shape of a heart or ring then this indicates a wedding in the near future. Any shapes that resemble animals are said to signal abundance.
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First-footing is a Scottish tradition that refers to the first person to cross the threshold after midnight. The chosen person, or first-footer, is usually required to be a tall, dark-haired male in order to bring luck into the household. The first-footer is also required to bring a gift of silver coins, bread or whiskey.
7. Rock star behavior
If you find yourself in the town of Hillbrow in Johannesburg on New Year’s Eve, then you’ll probably want to plan some indoor activities. Hillbrow residents celebrate the holiday by throwing old appliances such as TVs, cookers, fridges and washing machines from their windows. In recent years, the South African police have taken to patrolling the streets on New Year’s Eve to discourage the activity due to several people having been injured on previous occasions.
8. Animal costumes
Japanese people gather in Buddhist temples dressed as the zodiac animal for the coming year to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The temples are also required to ring their bells for exactly 108 chimes to signify the 108 human sins of the Buddhist religion. Ringing the bells is said to cleanse the soul of the previous year’s sins.
9. Effigy burning
Residents of Panama prepare for New Year’s Eve by making effigies of public figures such as politicians and celebrities and then burning them in the streets. The effigies, or Muñecos as they are known, are displayed on resident’s front lawns until New Year’s Eve. Households choose people they would like to see less of in the New Year as the model for their Muñeco.
10. Colored pants
The color of your underwear can have a huge influence on the coming year according to the people of South America. Shops in Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador begin stocking their shelves with brightly colored pants in the run up to the New Year. Wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve is said to bring love, and yellow underwear promises money.
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Although each country has their own unique method of ringing in the New Year, every celebration symbolizes the same themes of love, luck and prosperity. New Year’s Eve is a time for forgetting the stresses of the previous year and starting afresh with a clean slate. However you decide to celebrate the holiday, be sure to spend it in the company of those you care about the most.