New Year’s Eve is characterised by similar, if not identical traditions, throughout Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. While it is expected that there are bells at midnight counting down the seconds to the New Year, followed by impressive fireworks displays, there are also local and lesser known traditions unique to certain countries. While these may seem odd at first glance, get into the spirit and join in the traditions. It is considered quite rude not too in certain countries! You do not want to offend your hosts: many cultures believe this will bring bad luck for the coming year. If your New Year’s Eve Plans are somewhere exotic this year, there might be some unusual traditions to adhere too. Here are a few of the richest New Year’s Eve traditions in Europe.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Scotland is exciting. Scotland has some of the richest New Year’s Eve customs and traditions. It is known as Hogmanay. There are many features of a Scottish New Year’s Eve that are followed closely, such as the first footing. In Scottish folklore, the first person to cross the threshold into your home on the New Year would bring good luck and fortune. As such, muscular, tall, dark haired men are the preferred first visitor in any home. It is also customary to arrive at a guest house with several gifts representing good fortunes for the coming year: a lump of coal for warmth, a coin for prosperity, shortbread for food and flavour and whisky for enjoyment.
Worldwide it has become customary to sing “Auld Lang Syne” after the ringing of the bells. This stems from Scotland as well. Originally a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the song has become popular in recent years and follows the ringing of the bells in many Western countries. It is customary in Scotland to gather in a circle and hold hands whilst singing the song.
There are very similar variations in England and Wales to the Scottish custom of bringing gifts to friends and relatives after the bells ring. Throughout Europe, you can expect to find some variant of the first footing also.
Vigilia di Capodanno, Italy
The Italians traditionally wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. It is unknown why, but the tradition doesn’t really need to be followed, well, depending on how many people are going to see your underwear. The Italians throw unused or old items from the previous year out of the window or off the balcony, to symbolise removing burdens from your past.
When the bells strike midnight, it is customary to have a spoonful of lentil stew for every bell that tolls. The stew is prepared in advance and shared among family and friends. The round lentils are symbolic of coins, and thought to promise a fruitful year.
The Spanish, much like the Italians, wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. Again, the origins of this tradition are unknown, but it is speculated that the underwear brings good luck. At midnight, the Spanish have a tradition similar to the Italians tradition of eating a spoonful of lentil stew per clock chime. In Spain, this has translated into easting a dozen grapes, one per chime. This tradition has its roots in Alicante, and dates back to 1909. It is reported that as a response to the over production of grapes that year, town councillors suggested each member of the town eat a dozen grapes at midnight before they rotted. This is now a popular tradition throughout Latin America also.