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New Year’s is a time to start fresh, wish good luck, and hope for fortune for the next year. Each country has different rituals to bring in the new year on the right foot. It is always fun to learn and gain awareness of the diversity in traditions and customs.

  • 12 Grapes: When the clock hits midnight on New Years Eve, it is tradition for Spaniards, Latin Americans and Filipinos to eat a dozen grapes. Each grape is meant to bring good luck and fortune for each month in the next coming year.
  • 108 Bell Chimes: Buddhist Temples in Japan enjoy a bell ringing ritual at the stroke of midnight on New Years eve. This tradition is called Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘). The bells chime 108 times to successfully purify from all the suffering and delusions from the past year.
  • Burning the Old Year: It is common to see people from Mexico to Uruguay purchase and then burn paper-filled scarecrows. This tradition represents burning, letting go and cleansing the old year.
  • Breaking Old Plates: Many Danes to save old plates and throw them at the doorstep of friends and family. The bigger the pile of broken plates, the more friends you have!
  • Suitcase Around the Block: At the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve, most Latin Americans run around the block with a suitcase hoping for a travel filled year.
  • Onions: For Greeks, onions represent fertility, rebirth and growth. Therefore, hanging them inside the home generates blessings, health and longevity. If hanging an onion to the door is not enough, parents also tap their children on the head with an onion on New Year’s Day.
  • Colored Underwear: South Americans, Spaniards and Italians are known to bring in the New Year by wearing colored underwear. Each color has a different meaning, so choose wisely.
    • Red: More romance
    • Yellow: Good fortune
    • Green: Good luck  
    • Blue: Good health
    • White: Peace and happiness

Even if you don’t consider yourself superstitious, gaining cultural awareness of the different traditions followed worldwide is a fun way to view diversity. Tying to follow some of these traditions may become an unique New Year’s Eve experience.

Pro tip: Don’t wear black underwear, it will bring bad luck.


Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.

Sophie Echeverry is the Corporate Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Sophie has co-written more than 30 blogs since graduation. She’s a passionate foodie, and an avid e-scooter rider. Follow her foodie Instagram account or Connect with her on LinkedIn.