How do other countries celebrate the New Year? Alternative celebrations in Spain, Germany and Scotland

All over the world, people will be celebrating the New Year next week. Photo: Tony Johnson

New Year’s celebrations in most parts of the world will be another muted event this year, but millions of people will still try to mark the arrival of 2022 in a Covid-compliant manner.

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Leeds New Years Eve 2021: Best Events, Fireworks & Parties to Celebrate …

But, what are the origins of New Year’s traditions and how do other countries celebrate? Former elementary school teacher Laura Steele of educational resource experts Plan Bee explains.

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A popular tradition in Scotland is that of the “first foot”.

The first guest to enter a house in the New Year must bring a gift (this can range from salt or charcoal to shortbread and whiskey).

This is meant to bring good luck to the master of the house – traditionally tall men with dark hair are preferred as first guests!

In Spain, at each of the twelve strokes of the clock at midnight, a grape is eaten.

It is believed that this will bring good luck for the months to come.


Just before midnight, the Danes stand in chairs, ready to jump off at midnight and ‘jump’ in January.


In Switzerland, it is a tradition to drop a spoonful of cream on the ground to bring in a prosperous New Year.

On New Years Eve in Greece, an onion is hung on the front door as a symbol of rebirth.

On New Year’s Day, parents wake up their children by hitting them on the head with the onion!

In Brazil, people dress in white clothes to symbolize their hopes for luck and peace in the New Year.

If you live near a beach, it is traditional to jump over seven waves – for each wave you receive a wish.

Donuts are eaten in Germany.

They ‘Pfannkuchens’ are filled with jam or alcohol.

As a joke, some may contain mustard or other not very tasty toppings – if you are unlucky enough to choose one, it is considered bad luck!

On the last day of the year, Colombians carry an empty suitcase with them hoping to travel 12 months ahead.

In Estonia on New Years Day people try to eat seven, nine or 12 times a day.

These are all lucky numbers, and it is believed that the more they eat, the more food will be plentiful in the coming year.

Another New Year’s Eve tradition that is increasingly popular in many parts of the world is Polar Plunge, or Polar Bear Plunge.

People visit the nearest beach, some in disguise, and bathe in the sea.

Many events are charitable, those who have the courage to swim on the ice are sponsored by those who are not!

Many people around the world are making New Year’s resolutions or promising themselves to achieve certain goals in the coming year.

This seems to be one of the oldest traditions we follow – it is believed that the ancient Babylonians were the first to make resolutions about 4,000 years ago.

Their promises included payment of debts and return of items they had borrowed.

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