How do other countries celebrate New Year? Alternative celebrations in Spain, Germany and Scotland

These are some of the alternative New Year's traditions across the world.

By Abi Whistance
Sunday, 26th December 2021, 4:45 pm
Across the globe people will be celebrating the new year next week. Photo: Tony Johnson
Across the globe people will be celebrating the new year next week. Photo: Tony Johnson

New Year celebrations in most parts of the world will be another muted event this year, but millions of people will still try to mark the arrival of 2022 in a Covid-compliant way.

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But, what are the origins of New Year traditions and how do other countries celebrate? Former primary school teacher Laura Steele of education resource experts Plan Bee explains.

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A popular tradition in Scotland is that of 'first-footing'.

The first guest to enter a house in the new year must bring a gift (these can range from salt or coal to shortbread and whiskey).

This is intended to bring luck to the householder - traditionally, tall, dark-haired men are preferred as the first guests!


In Spain, on each of the twelve strokes of the clock at midnight, a grape is eaten.

This is thought to bring good luck for the coming months.


Just before midnight, people in Denmark stand on chairs, ready to jump off them at midnight and 'leap' into January.


In Switzerland, it is traditional to drop a dollop of cream on the floor to bring a prosperous new year.



On New Year's Eve in Greece, an onion is hung on the front door as a symbol of rebirth.

On New Year's Day, parents wake their children up by tapping them on the head with the onion!



In Brazil, people dress in white clothes to symbolise their hopes for good luck and peace for the new year.

If you live near a beach, it is tradition to jump over seven waves - for each wave, you receive a wish.



Doughnuts are eaten in Germany.

They 'Pfannkuchens' are filled with jam or liquor.

As a practical joke, some may contain mustard or other unsavoury fillings - if you are unfortunate enough to choose one of these, this is seen as bad luck!



On the last day of the year, people in Columbia carry an empty suitcase around with them in the hope of a travel-filled 12 months to come.



In Estonia, on New Year's Day, people attempt to eat either seven, nine or 12 times throughout the day.

These are all lucky numbers, and it is believed that the more they eat, the more plentiful the food will be in the coming year.

Global traditions

Another increasingly popular New Year's Day tradition in many parts of the world is the Polar Plunge, or Polar Bear Plunge.

People visit their nearest beach, some in fancy dress, and take a dip in the sea.

A lot of the events are for charity, with those brave enough to take the icy swim being sponsored by those who aren't!

Many people across the world make New Year's resolutions or promises to themselves to achieve certain goals in the coming year.

This seems to be one of the oldest traditions we follow - the ancient Babylonians are thought to have been the first people to make resolutions around 4,000 years ago.

Their promises included paying debts and returning any items they had borrowed.

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