New Year’s traditions – how people celebrate Hogmanay around the world

‘Auld Lang Syne’ written by poet Robert Burns is sung all over the world on ‘Hogmanay’ as we hold hands and bring in the new year. 

Of course, we like to celebrate, so the party begins on New Year’s Eve and lasts until January 2, with an extra bank holiday given compared to the rest of the UK. 

Hogmanay’s origins are thought to be Viking – the Norse invaders began by celebrating the winter solstice on December 26, culminating in wild parties at the end of the month. 

Another popular tradition in Scotland is that of ‘first-footing’. The first guest to enter a house in the new year must bring a gift to bring luck to the householder.

So what other traditions are celebrated in other parts of the world?

In Spain, on each of the twelve strokes of the clock at midnight, a grape is eaten. This is thought to bring good luck for the coming months.

​​​​​​​Just before midnight, people in Denmark stand on chairs, ready to jump off them at midnight and ‘leap’ into January.

​​​​​​​In Switzerland, it is traditional to drop a dollop of cream on the floor to bring a prosperous new year.

​​​​​​​On New Year’s Eve in Greece, an onion is hung on the front door as a symbol of rebirth. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children up by tapping them on the head with the onion!

​​​​​​​In Brazil, people dress in white clothes to symbolise their hopes for good luck and peace for the new year. If you live near a beach, it is tradition to jump over seven waves – for each wave, you receive a wish.

​​​​​​​Doughnuts are eaten in Germany. The ‘Pfannkuchens’ are filled with jam or liquor. As a practical joke, some may contain mustard or other unsavoury fillings – if you are unfortunate enough to choose one of these, this is seen as bad luck!

​​​​​​​On the last day of the year, people in Columbia carry an empty suitcase around with them in the hope of a travel-filled 12 months to come.

​​​​​​​In Estonia, on New Year’s Day, people attempt to eat either seven, nine or 12 times throughout the day. These are all lucky numbers, and it is believed that the more they eat, the more plentiful the food will be in the coming year.


Many people across the world make New Year’s resolutions or promises to themselves to achieve certain goals in the coming year.

This seems to be one of the oldest traditions we follow – the ancient Babylonians are thought to have been the first people to make resolutions around 4,000 years ago. Their promises included paying debts and returning any items they had borrowed.

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