Many Americans greet the New Year with the annual ball drop in New York City and fireworks across the nation. Both traditions are colorful and celebratory but still pretty tame compared to other parts of the world where one can find traditions that range from solemn or inventive to crazy and downright dangerous!

  • In Estonia, numerology is especially meaningful on New Year’s Eve; eat a lucky number of seven, nine or twelve meals on that day to attract an abundance of strength, food and luck in the New Year … the more one eats, the more good fortune to expect. The anticipated indigestion is worth it, and leaving a bit of food behind at each meal will make ancestral spirits happy as well!
  • As the clock strikes midnight in Spain, get ready to eat one grape at each stroke (12). If successful (it’s harder than it sounds), tradition predicts a year of prosperity. 
  • Buddhist temples across Japan are busy New Year’s Eve as they ring their bells 108 times—one for each of the human sins. Many Japanese believe the previous year’s sins will be cleansed as a result.
  • If in Johannesburg, South Africa, you’d best wear a helmet and perhaps full body armor as some residents “party hard” by throwing old appliances out the window to represent “out with the old, in with the new.” 
  • To get New Year’s Eve wishes granted in Russia, write them down on a piece of paper, burn the paper, add the ashes to your favorite champagne and down it for luck before 12:01 a.m. in the new year.
  • Red has long been the color of passion, and in some countries like Italy, wearing red undergarments on New Year’s Eve is thought to bring good luck, prosperity and above all else, love! However, in Bolivia you can choose virtually any color of the rainbow … yellow for happiness and money, green for prosperity, pink for friendship, or white for hope and peace. And, if you wear them backward all evening, you’re also wishing for a new wardrobe (hopefully more than just new underwear)! 
  • Evil spirits and demons don’t stand a chance in Puerto Rico  and the Philippines with horns blasting, boat whistles blowing, cymbals clanging, pots and pans banging, guns firing and even church bells ringing! That kind of noise would get anyone’s attention, even those from the netherworld.
  • Danes hold on to their chipped  dishes and glasses all year because on New Year’s Eve they go to homes of neighbors, friends and family and smash them against their front doors. This is one time you hope for the largest mess possible on your front steps as (according to tradition) the more broken items accumulate, the more popular you are and the luckier you shall be in the coming year.

Each country in our diverse and fascinating world celebrates in its own way with myriad traditions; these are but a few. From all of us at Travel Leaders, we wish you a 2019 filled with good health, laughter, love, prosperity and much happiness.

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