New Year's Eve traditions

The classic New Year’s Eve traditions with a big party and wonderful fireworks will look different this year. So why not take a look at how other countries celebrate? We will show you exciting insights into New Year’s festivities from all over the world, which sometimes seem quite crazy and then again seem surprisingly familiar. One thing is certain, however: the new year is celebrated with great joy all over the world.

  1. New Year’s Eve traditions from Germany: mustard pastries and Dinner for One
  2. New Year’s Eve traditions from Russia: Christmas and New Year’s Eve at the same time
  3. New Year’s Eve traditions from Japan: The most important holiday of the year
  4. New Year’s Eve traditions from Ecuador: Burning witch heads and politicians
  5. New Year’s Eve traditions around the world: our conclusion

New Year’s Eve traditions from Germany: mustard pastries and Dinner for One

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Like many Europeans, our German neighbours celebrate New Year’s Eve with traditions such as champagne toasts and fireworks. But while we can take our time buying fireworks, the Germans have to hurry: Rockets and other fireworks are usually only allowed to be sold on the last three working days of the year. Once the desired fireworks have been purchased, people in Germany prefer to eat raclette together in convivial company rather than the fondue chinoise that is so popular in Switzerland. Everything the heart desires ends up in the small pans and is then baked with spicy cheese. But in Germany, not only delicacies are served on New Year’s Eve. A funny tradition involves serving New Year’s pastries – which are not always what they seem. In some circles, guests are served mustard-filled doughnuts hidden under their jam-filled counterparts. Those who bite into the culinary abomination are lucky, however, because the mustard doughnut signifies an auspicious new year. Incidentally, another New Year’s Eve tradition among Germans involves watching the comedy sketch Dinner for One together, which we also know and love in Switzerland.

New Year’s Eve traditions from Russia: Christmas and New Year’s Eve at the same time

Russian New Year’s Eve traditions combine the best of both worlds. Because on the last day of the year, Russians get a visit from Father Frost, who comes along with lots of presents for the children, much like our Father Christmas. Instead of a Christmas tree, the Russians therefore have a New Year’s tree, Novogodnaya Yolka, which is left standing to celebrate both occasions. Culinarily, the last day of the year is celebrated with a late dinner with the whole family, where herring and salad are served. The most popular salad is the so-called Olivier, which combines boiled potatoes, carrots, eggs, green peas and pickled cucumbers in a mayonnaise dressing. 5 minutes before midnight, the traditional short speech by the President is broadcasted, reminding Russians once again of all that has been achieved in the past year. Then come the fireworks at midnight.

In Russia, however, the New Year festivities continue after 1st January. According to the old calendar, the New Year was originally celebrated on 14th January. Nowadays, the New Year’s Eve traditions that are celebrated on the “old” New Year are usually of a more quiet nature. People get together in the family circle for a delicious festive meal, during which they often sing songs together.

New Year’s Eve traditions from Japan: The most important holiday of the year

Silvester Japan

New Year’s Eve is the most important holiday of the entire year in Japan. But typical New Year’s Eve traditions in Japan have little in common with the noisy New Year’s Eve parties celebrated in the Western world. Instead, New Year’s Eve in the Far East is a family celebration that resembles our Christmas Eve. People meet to eat buckwheat noodles and rice cakes together, which are supposed to bring luck and prosperity in the new year, and then they go to the Shinto shrine or temple to celebrate the first prayer of the year. Until you have rung the bell, clapped your hands and said your New Year’s prayer, people in Japan wait quietly together and enjoy the contemplative atmosphere. The next day, the family goes to a larger shrine where they buy O-mikuji, which are predictions for the new year. Later, they have the traditional New Year’s meal O-Sechi, which includes miso soup, sweet rice cakes, mashed sweet potatoes with chestnuts, pickled vegetables and fish.

Whereas we in the West are busy writing Christmas cards, Japanese New Year’s Eve traditions involve wishing each other well for the New Year and countless New Year’s cards are written. It is not unusual to receive several hundred New Year’s cards, especially if you hold a high social position. Japanese children, on the other hand, eagerly await the so-called toshidama: envelopes filled with money which are given to them by relatives on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Eve traditions from Ecuador: Burning witch heads and politicians

In Ecuador, a somewhat creepy New Year’s Eve tradition has been established: here, people stuff dolls with fireworks and light them up at midnight. But the dolls are not just some random representations. Nasty witch heads are often depicted, but imitations of politicians or figures from pop culture are also very popular. The burning of the dolls is a symbolic act to get rid of everything bad, so that one can look forward to the new year without worries. The tradition also requires jumping over a fire with the lit dolls twelve times to enjoy prosperity and good fortune in the coming year.

Another unusual tradition exists for the men of Ecuador, because they are supposed to dress up as widows and ask for a small donation of money in the streets. And what do the women do in the meantime? They take photos of their partners, of course, which they can use to tease them with later. Good to know: At the end of the year, the right colour of underwear is also important in Ecuador. Red brings new love, whereas yellow promises wealth.

New Year’s Eve traditions around the world: our conclusionHappy new year

All over the world, the New Year is a great occasion to get together with loved ones and to eat and celebrate together with much joy. Sometimes loud fireworks or elsewhere a silent prayer drives away the evil spirits. Ultimately, despite their diversity, New Year’s Eve traditions around the world intend to bring happiness and prosperity for the new year and to leave everything bad behind. Even though we can only celebrate with our closest family this year and can only share our New Year’s Eve with the rest of our friends and relatives via video, we wish you much joy in celebrating your favourite New Year’s Eve traditions and all the very best for the New Year!



Photo credits:
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cottonbro /
Ryoji Iwata /
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