There are very few global celebrations, but New Year’s Eve comes closest. Celebrated by most of the world, New Year’s Eve is a seen as a time for opportunity, hope and renewal. While there are a lot of similar traditions across the globe, how the day is celebrated in Phuket is much different than how it is celebrated in Portland. If you’re looking to shake up a staid holiday festival or if you are just looking to add a touch of global elan to your party, consider incorporating some of these holiday traditions.
In Ecuador, elaborate dolls called Old Years are made representing people and events, often political figures that the makers disagree with. Sometimes, they are even stuffed with firecrackers. At the stroke of midnight, these effigies are lit on fire to demonstrate the burning away of the old year and the beginning of the new one. Some people will also walk around the block with a suitcase, which is said to bring the person their dream journey in the coming year. It is also customary in Ecuador to wear yellow underwear, as it is thought this will bring good luck through the New Year.
The traditions of Ecuador are closely related to those in Mexico and Spain. Many Mexicans will wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve if they want to find money in the New Year; those who are interested in finding love will wear red underwear. Dolls are made out of old clothes and burned throughout Mexico as a way to burn away the old year. It is also custom to eat a grape with each chime of the bells that ring in the New Year while making a wish. Each grape corresponds with a month of the year. If the grape is sweet, it is said that that month will be a good one.
In the Philippines, it is traditional to spend the New Year with family and friends at a small dinner. Roasted pig and ham are often on the menu, as many cultures associate them with good luck. Filipinos often choose to wear colorful clothes with circular patterns like polka dots. The color of the clothes is a sign that the wearer is welcoming the New Year, while the circles are a sign of a long-held belief that they will attract money. Perhaps one of the most unique beliefs is that jumping up high will bring an increase in height during the next year.
Perhaps the most ancient traditions happen in Japan. Instead of sending Christmas cards, the Japanese send cards to arrive on New Year’s Day so that they can tell those they don’t often see how they are doing. They also eat a selection of foods that date back to the times before refrigeration, often consisting of dried, sour or preserved foods, as most shops are closed for the day. Small, decorated envelopes are also given away to children with money inside.
Whatever tradition you choose to follow on New Year’s, rest assured that there are literally millions-perhaps even billions-of people celebrating the evening with you. While everyone has their own unique way to ring in the New Year, it is the one celebration that most people in the world share.