New Year’s traditions celebrated around world


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Stockholm, Sweden celebrates the start of their New Year with a spectacular firework display.

As the ball dropped in New York’s Time Square at 12:00 a.m., the Eastern Time Zone (EST) celebrated the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 with high hopes of having a better year. Other parts of the world celebrated their countdown at their respective time zones and had different ways to celebrate the New Year. 

In Australia, many people celebrate the new year on boat cruises or at urban parklands or beaches. They share similar traditions to the United States as they also have the ball droppings, firework displays and famous icons performing in major city squares. The Sydney Harbour, Australia’s most iconic landmark, is considered a special symbol of the New Year’s Eve celebrations as the harbor is lit with fireworks while many gather together for the Harbour of Light parade.

Brazil’s New Year’s celebration falls on the “Festa de Lemanjá,” which is a spiritual festival honoring the goddess of the sea. On New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, millions of people gather at Copacabana Beach dressed entirely in white. Each person lights a candle as the sun goes down and offers gifts of flowers, perfume and rice to Lemanjá before midnight. They may also put these gifts in little boats that drift onto the ocean waves.

Although China does not celebrate the New Year in January, they are no exception as they have rich traditions to celebrate the lunar New Year. Chinese New Year starts on February 11 and lasts until February 26a total of 16 days. Celebrations during this time include lion and dragon dances, fireworks, family gatherings and meals, visiting friends and relatives, gifts of red envelopes and decorations with Chunlian couplets.

Colombia has one of the most unique (and possibly the strangest) New Year’s Eve customs around. It is tradition that one must eat one grape and make one wish per clock chime as it strikes midnight, totalling 12 grapes and wishes. At midnight, Colombians set fire to a doll-like effigy called “Año Nuevo,” which burns and explodes as it symbolizes the burning of the Old Year and all that it represents. Some Colombian Americans do this as well.

Most people in France spend their New Year’s celebrating with their friends and family. They drink champagne, sparkling white wine or hot wine while singing songs about the New Year. Certain types of cakes associated with the New Year are heart-shaped cakes, log-shaped cakes made of ice cream, and the king’s cake; the person who finds the dried bean, coin or figure in their king’s cake portion is crowned “king” for the day and wears a paper crown.

Japanese New Year is considered the most important holiday in Japan. Bonenkai parties (“year forgetting parties”) are held for the purpose of leaving the old year’s troubles behind. Homes are decorated with ornaments made out of pine, bamboo or plum trees. It is a tradition to visit shrines of temples during this time. A popular custom is sending New Year’s cards to friends, relatives and co-workers on New Year’s Day.

Kenya’s New Year celebrations generally consist of parties, music, church services and fireworks. They have two events during this time: Nairobithe biggest event that stages musical performances and fireworks displays—and Mombasa—beach parties hosted by local radio stations with live music and DJs.

Mexico’s beaches such as Acapulco and Cancun are packed with tourists that come from all over the world to celebrate the New Year. Celebrations include parties, dinners, fireworks and champagne toasts at the stroke of midnight while using the expression “Feliz Año Nuevo” (Happy New Year). Additionally, there are several superstitious activities that people will do during New Year’s such as dressing in certain colors that will bring positivity, throwing a bucket of water out of the window for the renewal of the New Year and sweeping out old dust and coins for prosperity at home.

South Africa spends its New Year’s with firecracker explosions and firework displays. Cape Town hosts some of the top New Year’s event parties and many can go to the top of Table Mountain to get a panoramic view of the firework display. Cape Town also hosts the Cape Minstrel Carnival with a carnival parade that brings music and dance to the city square.

In short, there are many cultural New Year’s customs and traditions that are celebrated around the world. All of these different traditions for this particular event embrace different cultures and people to make them all individually unique from each other.