Champagne has been the classic celebratory drink since at least the 1800s. In the United States, it’s as much of a New Year’s tradition as dressing to the nines, watching the Times Square ball drop, and celebrating with loud party poppers and noisemakers. You and your friends pop open the Champagne (or saber if you really want to make an impression), fill up the glasses, and cheers to the year gone by and the new one ahead. This classic U.S. tradition is one that’s popular internationally, too.
Champagne (or some type of sparkling wine) makes an appearance at celebrations around the world. To ring in the new year, people in many countries—France, Brazil, Denmark, Portugal, the list goes on—open up a bottle to share with friends and family. While lots of countries’ celebrations unite around the shared tradition of Champagne, the celebrations diverge from there.
So, how do people in other countries mark the new year?
Greeks do drink Champagne at midnight, but it’s more of an imported tradition. They have a lot of fun New Year’s customs of their own, though—especially when it comes to food. One of the classic celebratory dishes they eat during New Year’s Eve is bougatsa, which is a sweet pastry filled with vanilla cream. Then, on New Year’s Day, they bake a vasilopita. This is more than just a cake. A coin is hidden inside, and the person who finds it gets good luck (and sometimes even a prize). It’s also customary to break a pomegranate in your house for good luck. However, this is losing popularity because of the mess it leaves to clean up later. No one wants to start the year picking up pomegranate seeds.
In terms of non-food traditions, New Year’s Day is when families in Greece open presents, making the day even more of a celebration.
Make sure you have a cluster of grapes handy. When the clock strikes midnight, Spaniards eat grapes—12 in total—for each month of the upcoming year. This is supposed to bring good luck throughout the new year. Mexico has a similar tradition where they eat 12 grapes and make a wish with each one.
They have a lot of fun traditions here. First off, you want to be at the beach. At the start of the new year, they head out into the ocean and jump seven waves. Continuing on that theme, it’s also common to eat seven grapes or pomegranate seeds and imbibe in a little Champagne. Whatever you do, though, don’t eat turkey because it will bring you bad luck for the rest of the year.
Here, this is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. As such, they put an interesting spin on the typical Champagne. Russians will write a wish on a piece of paper, set it on fire, put the ashes in their glass, and drink the whole thing. They also decorate a yolka—a New Year’s tree—with a star on top.
One popular part of the Danish celebration: kransekage. It’s a decorated wreath cake that’s tall, shaped like a tree, and made from cake rings stacked on top of each other. They also leap into the new year—literally. The Danes stand on furniture, and, when the clock hits 12, they jump off. It’s a symbol of overcoming the rest of the year’s challenges.
This is a place with a ton of traditions. A popular one involves potatoes. They put three under a chair: One is fully peeled, one is half-peeled, and one is not peeled. Then, someone randomly chooses one without looking. Hopefully, they grab the unpeeled potato because that one predicts a good financial fortune. The peeled one, on the other hand, predicts monetary trouble in the upcoming 12 months. On the theme of good finances, some Peruvians put coins in their shoes (the ones they’re wearing) as it’s supposed to bring more money in the upcoming year. Finally, and this is one of their most famous traditions, they’ll run around the block with an empty suitcase (or backpack). This gives you good luck for big trips.
While the traditions may differ, they all have one thing in common: They offer fun ways of closing out the previous year and looking forward to what’s coming up.
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