No matter what our economic status is, what religion we practice or what country we live in, the New Year is a fresh start for everybody and the most universally celebrated holiday on the planet. And what’s even better, it’s based on unfettered hope for a better future! Whether you’d like to don a bear costume, fling fireballs like a Viking or get sprayed (orally!) by a shaman, here are some of the most unorthodox (and most fun) New Year traditions to take part in:
1. Bear Dancing, Romania
Sport a bear costume or animal fur for the bear dance performed during the parade in Comanesti. Dressed to scare (or is it the scary dance skills?), performing the ritual in the costume is supposed to ward off evil spirits in the coming year.
2. Furniture Throwing, South Africa
Look out for flying appliances and furniture. Starting the New Year afresh leads Johannesburg residents to toss out the old—literally.
3. Swinging Fireballs, Scotland
A tradition dating back to the Vikings as a symbol of purification, men swinging balls of fire parade through the village of Stonehaven.
4. Possum Dropping, North Carolina, USA
Georgia drops a peach, Pennsylvania drops a pickle, Wisconsin drops a fish and Brasstown drops an opossum…for real. Not to worry, they don’t actually drop the opossum. At Clay’s Corner convenience store, they gently lower it; no harm comes to the merry-maker marsupial.
5. Gobbling Grapes, Spain
At the stroke of midnight, cram 12 grapes in your mouth for good luck—one for each month of the coming new year. For grapes on the go, pick up a can or champagne glass of 12 grapes at any Spanish grocery store.
6. Wearing Polka Dots, Philippines
Round-shaped things, signifying prosperity in the coming year, rule the roost in Filipino New Year’s traditions. Beyond wearing polka dots, stuff your pockets with coins and eat 12 round fruits, like cantaloupe, tangerines and grapes, at midnight.
7. Suitcase Toting, Columbia
8. Bell Tolling (108x!), China
In Suzhou, locals and visitors literally ring in the New Year at the Hanshan Temple Bell (see photo below) Ringing Festival. A bell rings 108 times to represent the 108 troubles of life, according to Buddhist scripture. Hearing all 108 tolls is believed to alleviate annoyances in the coming year and bring good luck.
9. Hurling Dishes, Denmark
It’s breaking bad, Dane-style: plates and glasses are thrown at the doors of friends and relatives. They also jump off a chair at midnight to banish bad spirits.
10. Molten Tin Fortune-Telling, Finland
Some cultures read tea leaves to predict the future; Finland interprets the shape of molten tin when it hits the water. A ship means travel; a pig forecasts bountiful food; and a heart or ring indicates a wedding.
10. Hair Washing Abstinence, China
To celebrate Chinese New Year beginning January 19, clean your house; but whatever you do, don’t wash your hair. It’s believed to wash away good luck.
11. Sporting Colored Underwear, Brazil
To bring fortune, wear yellow; for love, wear red. This tradition is also practiced in Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Also in Brazil, revelers jump over seven waves at midnight for good luck.
12. Romance-Predicting Roosters, Belarus
Want to know if you’ll be lucky in love in 2015? Belarus roosters can tell you: place a pile of corn in front of each single gal, then let the rooster strut his stuff. Whichever pile the rooster eats from first is who will marry first.
13. Cemetery Camping, Chile
Similar to Oaxaca’s Day of Dead festivities, in the city of Talca, locals head to the cemetery for a candlelight vigil accompanied by classical music to welcome the New Year in the company of deceased relatives’ spirits.
14. Shaman Spitting, Northern Peru
To ward off evil spirits in the coming year, locals get naked and are ‘baptized’ in a chamomile concoction. Besides being in the buff, the ritual is especially unique because the herbal spray is administered by way of the shaman spewing it out of his or her mouth!
15. Frozen Frolicking, Russia
Join the members of the ‘Cryophil’ swimming club aka polar bear club in Krasnoyarsk, Russia with a dip in the Yenisei River. This will certainly earn you a right to parade among the festive bathing suit clad members in below freezing weather.
16. Floating Resolutions, Singapore
Write your hopes and dreams for the New Year on a white beach ball and send it off in the Singapore River. At night, the wishing spheres are especially beautiful reflecting the fireworks above.
How do you celebrate New Year’s? Any special traditions? We’d love to hear how you’ll be bringing in 2015!