When the last page of the calendar is about to turn, people tend to recklessly step out of their comfort zone and do otherwise unthinkable things. New Year’s Eve is approaching and you most probably wonder how you could best celebrate it. If you do, this article is meant for you! No matter what nationality you are or where you will be when the clock strikes midnight, you still can make the best of the situation. All you need at your disposal is colored underwear, and some old dinnerware, and a rusty refrigerator.
Around the world, different cultures celebrate New Year’s Eve in unique ways and in some cases on a different day! The Gregorian calendar is generally accepted across the globe, and those of us who follow it, celebrate New Year’s Eve on January 1st. The Chinese, however, follow the Lunar calendar, and according to it, their New Year occurs somewhere between mid-January and mid-February. The Amazigh people of Algeria are about to celebrate the New Year 2599 on January 8th. But whatever the year and on whatever day it falls, it’s for sure that from north to south and from east to west, people of the world will get together to welcome the new year with zest and positivity.
Here are 15 of the most bizarre things people around the globe do after midnight strikes.
15. The Kukeri Procession in Bulgaria
The Balkans are one of Europe’s most mysterious corners where emotions run high and manners are untamed. Among the Balkan countries, Bulgaria is particularly famous for its somewhat chiseled and muscular built men, who can eat a whole sheep and drink a keg of brandy at one meal. Their extraordinary masculinity and roughness is best manifested during the kukeri procession, which takes place in the early hours of the new year. Early on January 1st, men walk the downtown streets dressed in scary, hairy costumes that look as if they’re coming straight from the set of a Hollywood horror production. The Bulgarian kukeri wear incredibly creepy masks and huge bells on their belts, and the very costumes are made of thick animal pelts. Sometimes the whole get-up can weigh up to 50kg! The ancient ritual is intended to drive the evil spirits away. We don’t know if they are really capable of chasing the evil spirits away, but with their looks they can surely give you a heart attack.
14. Wearing Colorful Undies in Latin American Countries
Whoever told you it’s shameful to believe in old superstitions, ignore them! Actually, playing to certain superstitions is a great way to focus on a particular goal you want to achieve. This year you might consider choosing your New Year’s Eve underwear color wisely if you want some positive changes to come your way. In some Latin American countries, people believe that the color of the panties they wear on New Year’s Eve will pull their luck in the coming year in the desired direction. If you’re looking for more passion, romance and love in your life, you might want to go with a red pair of undies. Yellow underwear will guarantee you prosperity, wealth and success, while white brings peace, harmony and happiness.
13. The Jumping and Breaking Traditions in Denmark
Danes can be really bright, punchy and genuinely funny when they are in good spirits. And they come in especially good spirits with the New Year approaching. On the very last day of December, they become extra bright, punchy and funny, and you can expect a lot of crazy things going on if you happen to be around them. As the midnight countdown is rung in on Copenhagen’s City Hall, those who’ve decided to celebrate indoors, climb to the highest viewing point, be it a chair, a sofa, or a table, and literally jump into the New Year. Hopefully, no visit to the ER is needed after that!
For the Danes, New Year’s Eve is also the time of the year that is perfect to cement a friendship– they’ll collect all the old china and smash it against their friends’ doors as a token of affection and everlasting friendship. So, if you decide to celebrate like the Danes this year, all you need is a pair of strong knees and some old dishes.
12. Cow Appreciation in Belgium
Chocolate is among the biggest industries in the world and some of the most famous chocolatiers are located in Belgium. This makes cows somewhat sacred there, as they produce milk for some of the best chocolate brands there are. No wonder Belgians take their livestock so seriously that they literally treat them like humans. You doubt that? Here is a really good argument that is going to convince you. On New Year’s Eve, in most rural areas, Waloon and Flemish farmers observe the charming custom of getting up early on January 1st and going to the cowsheds to politely wish their cows a “Happy New Year”. Of course, the farmers pay respect also to the other domestic animals, and although there are no records of what the animals say in return, we are pretty sure the exceptionally caring attitude of the farmers is the key to the excellent results.
11. Predicting the Future Through Molten Tin In Finland
Wondering what lies ahead for you in the New Year? Go to Finland and find out by throwing molten tin into a container of water. You’ll need a local to explain the meaning of the shape the tin takes after it hardens. Let us tell you how it’s done: a baby horseshoe is melted in a pan and then quickly poured into a bucket of cold water. The moment the tin hits the water, it re-solidifies and takes random shapes. Some wise or moderately drunk Finns should be able to interpret for you the meaning of those mysterious forms. If you get a heart or ring shape, start looking for a wedding planner in the New Year. A ship predicts travel, and a pig shape is not exactly good news for those who are on a strict diet– it signifies abundance of food.
10. The Fist Fight Festival in Peru
If you are seeking to vent from all the stress and mishaps accumulated through the last 365 days, you might find a chance in the small Peruvian village of Santo Tomas. They have an annual festival called Takanakuy, held during the last days of December, when the whole town gets together to dance, drink and… beat the hell out of each other. After a few days of drinking and dancing, the residents of San Tomas– men, women, children, and even the elderly– pair off, wrap their hands with pieces of cloth, give each other a preliminary hug and then punch the “opponent” full-force in the face. That way all issues from the gone-by year, from stolen sheep and cheating girlfriends to spilled beer, are settled and the passions are cooled down. As the beatings are completely legal at that time of the year, nobody is held responsible for harming a fellow citizen, which, of course, is the best part.
9. The Overeating Exertion in Estonia
Back when food was scarce and a dish of boiled potatoes and a tiny piece of pork was considered a rich meal, people in Estonia started a tradition where they would indulge on at least one day of the year; they would try to eat seven times on New Year’s Day. The Estonians believe that by following this tradition, they’ll ensure for themselves plenty of food in the coming year. The number of food intakes, however, hugely varies nowadays– from seven to nine, or even twelve meals in a single day! There is, however, a hidden meaning here; 7, 9 and 12 are lucky numbers in Estonia. And besides, the more meals you consume, the more strength you will gain the following year. For example, if you eat seven times, you’ll gain the strength of seven men.
8. The Travesty Show in Ukraine
We bet the ancestors of Ukrainians must have been extremely bored during the cold December days, so, logically, holiday partying turned out to be their way of staying sane. They are one of the few European nations that officially celebrate the New Year twice! The first party follows the Gregorian calendar and falls on January 1st; they join the rest of the world in New Year’s madness. The second celebration follows the Julian calendar and falls on January 14th, thus providing for the Ukrainians enough time to recover from the previous drinking and eating, so that they could be in shape to start all over again two weeks later.
It’s on the 14th that the Ukrainians carry out some of their most ancient and strangest customs. The celebrations on that day go under the name of Malanka, and involve carollers who go from house to house playing pranks. The bachelors among them are traditionally dressed in women’s clothing and are the ones who lead the troop. The advice of the locals for that particular day sounds something like, “New Year’s Eve is your last chance to go wild before the upcoming forty days of fasting. So, go out, be a girl, or whatever, and have fun!”
7. The National Comedy Show Viewing in Iceland
Seriously, Iceland should be on the top of your list of places to spend New Year’s Eve. Although there is a strict schedule to follow, it couldn’t be more fun. At 6 pm, most Icelanders listen to the radio broadcast of the Cathedral mass. At 8 pm, ten big bonfires are lit around Reykjavik and the tradition enjoins that the locals burn all the old things in order to cleanse the household for the coming year. Nowadays, they won’t do that anymore, but they can still make a symbolic gesture by throwing an old shoe or sock in the fire– just to keep the tradition alive. The weird stuff is yet to come, though. At 10 pm, the Icelanders head home to watch Áramótaskaupið (‘The New Year’s comedy’)— a special show that has been broadcast annually since 1966! The surveys show that a solid 90% of the population watches the show, which is the talk of the nation the next day. However, you have to figure out by yourself how to participate in this last pre-midnight ritual if you don’t understand Icelandic.
6. Banging on People’s Doors with a Loaf of Bread in Ireland
New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Ireland, with family gatherings, galas, and charming street parties— and the Irish definitely know how to throw a party! Besides, the country is well-known for its centuries-old traditions and superstitions, one of which seems especially silly to the foreigners. This particular tradition involves banging on doors and walls of houses with Christmas bread. The custom was initially performed in the hope of having enough bread in the New Year, but then its meaning got extended and nowadays, it is thought to chase the bad luck out and bring good spirits to the household. Another thing the Irish care about on New Year’s Day, besides having enough bread to bang on doors with, is who the first person to cross the threshold of their home on that day is. Everybody prays that it isn’t a young, ginger-haired girl, as she is believed to bring nothing but grief and hardship to the home.
5. The Cemetery Sleepover in Chile
Perhaps one of the most bizarre New Year’s Eve customs ever is the one of a small town in central Chile which sees locals gather at the cemetery on New Year’s Eve. The idea is to welcome the New Year in the company of deceased relatives and loved ones. The tradition was started a couple of centuries ago when a family broke into the graveyard to be near their dead father on the last night of the year. Presently, the town’s mayor opens the gates at 11 pm on New Year’s Eve, and thousands of residents stream into the beautifully lit cemetery to celebrate the coming of the New Year, with classical music playing in the background.
4. Throwing Furniture Out Of the Window in South Africa
In the notoriously rough hood of Hillbrow in Johannesburg, the local residents have adopted an exceptionally dangerous New Year’s Eve custom. They welcome the New Year by flinging everything, from old microwaves to entire beds, through the windows of often very tall buildings, thus causing big trouble for the police. The residents start piling items many days ahead of New Year’s Eve, so that they can have enough “material” on hand when the day comes. Ever since 2011 when furniture-tossing was made illegal, the police have been patrolling in armored vehicles in order to prevent accidents. Several years ago, a small refrigerator struck a pedestrian on the head, almost killing him. So far, there are no official statistics on how many people have been hurt during this tradition, which is reported to have started in the 1990s, just after the end of South Africa’s white minority apartheid rule.
3. Trying to Hear the Animals Speak in Romania
What most people know about Romania is that it is a Central European country, a former ancient Roman province, which is bordered by Ukraine and Hungary. Besides, the country is commonly associated to Count Dracula and vampires in general. What most people don’t know, but should, is that Romanians actually believe animals can speak human language! In connection to this belief, there is a New Year’s Eve custom which is particularly popular with the farmers. They strain every nerve in their bodies to catch any animal speech coming from the stables or the cattle sheds. If they hear the animals speaking human language, it’s considered bad luck in the coming year. In fact, if you even by accident catch animals talking, you will die. But if they don’t hear anything, it’s good luck.
2. Diving in the Icy Lake Carrying a Tree in Siberia
Probably the chilliest New Year’s Eve tradition in the world comes from Siberia and involves cutting a hole in the ice covering the Lake Baikal and diving to the bottom holding a tree trunk. The intention behind this performance is even more ludicrous than the act itself– the diver should reach the bottom and “plant” the tree there. This may seem pointless to you, but to the Russian ice divers it’s pretty normal to celebrate the New Year in this unusual way– drinking sparkling wine and dancing around some pine tree in the freezing waters of Lake Baikal in Siberia. Just for your information, at that time of the year, the air temperature near the lake reaches -23 degrees Celsius, and the Lake Baikal itself is known to be the world’s oldest and deepest lake. If you don’t tolerate cold very much or can’t swim, you should probably cross out this destination from your New Year’s Eve list of wanna-go places.
1. The Mass-Kissing Tradition in Venice
This may not be the weirdest New Year’s Eve custom, but it certainly is the most enjoyable one– both by the locals and the tourists visiting the town of Venice where the world’s most famous “kissathon” takes place at midnight on December 31st in St. Mark’s Square. Every year, this super romantic event draws over 70 000 smoochers from all over the world. Couples are expected to gather around 10 pm under the famous square’s bell tower and start practicing their kissing before the main event at midnight when a huge fireworks display dazzles over St. Mark’s. Venice’s first “kiss-in” was staged in 2008 and won the city an international prize for the best New Year’s event. So, if you have no other plans for this New Year’s Eve, but you do have a boyfriend/girlfriend, our advice is to pack a suitcase and leave for Venice. If the city is still above the water by then, we promise you’ll have a fun time amidst the biggest kissing crowd in the world.