Whilst traditional British New Year celebrations involve getting inauspiciously drunk and spending the first day of the year attempting to survive a weapons-grade hangover, other cultures set about starting the year with productive, good-fortune-inducing traditions. Below are a handful of customs from around the world for welcoming in the new year and bringing good luck over the coming months.
In Germany, marzipan is crafted into pig-shaped treats, in the Netherlands donuts and other ring-shaped foods take precedence whilst in Spain and Portugal, 12 grapes or raisins are consumed to mark the start of the new year. Sampling these new cuisines can be implemented alongside the more universal western tradition of excessive alcohol consumption to mitigate the effects and ward off the hangover the following day.
Other food-based traditions do away with the archaic process of actually consuming food and take a more avant-garde approach to its use. In Greece, it is tradition to smash pomegranates; the more seeds that spill out the luckier the coming year will be. In areas of Switzerland, celebrations involve dropping a spoonful of cream on the floor, promising luck, wealth and peace for the following year. Some Irish households can be found beating the walls of their home with a loaf of bread in the hope that those that live their will have enough food in the new year. Keep all your bases covered and have a go at all three traditions, turning your home into a Pollock-esque modern art exhibition in the process.
New Year’s Swim
Popular around the world, many welcome in the new year (and try to escape the hangover) by going for a swim in the sea. Whilst this a substantially less daunting prospect when standing on the golden sands of mid-summer Bondi Beach than the bottle-cap-ridden shingle of Lee-on-Solent, it makes for a fun way to celebrate the new year amongst nature with friends, family and others braving the plunge.
Parts of Italy, Spain, Brazil and Chile extend their new year’s traditions to the colour of their underwear. Red underwear of any kind is custom in Italy, Spain and Chile whilst Brazil opt for white in the hope it will bring good fortune. An easy one to incorporate with other traditions to maximise luck for the new year.
In Japan, the New Year, or ‘Oshogatsu’, sees families thoroughly clean their entire house before decorating it with natural ornaments such as pine branches, plum blossoms, and bamboo. Puerto Ricans take this a step further, cleaning the house, the car, the garden and even the streets. In Hillbrow, Johannesburg, residents approach cleaning with exuberant resolve, throwing old furniture and appliances out the window, cleansing the house of of bad spirits and ensuring the luck of those passing below can only improve.
So, for the luckiest 2019 possible…
Smash some pomegranates, pour some cream on the floor and beat the walls of your house with a loaf of Hovis before running down to the beach and for a swim in your red underwear. Return to your house, collecting pine branches, plum blossoms, and bamboo along the way for decorations, tidy everything, throwing appliances out the window in the process and then decorate using the aforementioned shrubbery.
For extra luck:
The burning of effigies or ‘Muñecos’ occurs across Panama on the stroke of midnight on 1 January. According to Panamanian folklore, by beating and setting light to the effigies, the sins and evil spirits of the previous year are destroyed, promising revellers will find good fortune in the new year. The Muñecos are often built to resemble celebrities and politicians that fell out of favour over the previous year; although at a time when the British public have so much admiration and respect for the political elite, I can’t imagine this tradition will catch on…