Weird and wonderful New Year's Eve traditions around the world – from furniture throwing to wild cemetery parties

Weird and wonderful New Year's Eve traditions around the world – from furniture throwing to wild cemetery parties

December 31, 2020

BRITS traditionally love nothing more than a few celebratory drinks, an impressive fireworks display and a loud rendition of Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve – at least in normal times.

But in some parts of the world, those traditions are replaced by some very bizarre practices when it comes to ringing in the new year.


From gathering in cemeteries in Chile for a party with the dead, to South Africans throwing their old furniture out of the window to mark a new start, there are some weird and wonderful ways of celebrating.

And with grape binges, plate-throwing and more, people go all out for December 31.

Of course this year will be very different across the world due to the ongoing pandemic, but some traditions will likely remain. Now, as we prepare to welcome in 2021, we look at other traditions around the world…

Celebrating in graveyards

In Chile, some families spend the night in the company of their deceased loved ones by celebrating in the cemetery.

The macabre ritual takes place in the city of Talca, where the graveyard gates are opened for the midnight celebration.

It's thought the tradition began relatively recently but it's already become an annual custom in the region.

Effegies stuffed with firecrackers

In Panama, New Year's Eve involves stuffing effigies called Muñecos – which are made to resemble politicians and celebrities – with firecrackers then setting them ablaze at midnight.

The dolls are also beaten, in a bid to drive away evil spirits who are 'fearful' of the light and noise.

Out with the old

In South Africa, it has become tradition to throw old furniture out of the window on December 31 in some areas, to mark the start of a new year.

However, the custom in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg has been cracked down on in recent years, as falling TV sets and fridges were becoming something of a danger.

The hazardous tipping tradition also takes place in Italy — where it's also customary to eat lentils to celebrate the New Year.

Fancy a grape or 12?

In Spain, locals eat a grape for each strike of midnight and one for each month of the year.

If you manage to eat all 12 on time then it’s believed you’ll enjoy a year of prosperity.

Pork jelly… but definitely no fish

In Hungary, it is tradition to munch on pork to bring luck in the New Year.

The fatty contents of the meat symbolise wealth and prosperity, while fish is avoided because it is thought to represent luck swimming away.

'Lucky' dishes on New Year's Day include roasted pork, cabbage rolls filled with ground pork, and cold pork aspic — basically, pork jelly.

A smashing way to celebrate

Don’t be surprised to find a load of broken china on your doorstep if you are celebrating New Year in Denmark.

Smashing plates against the front door is thought to bring luck to whoever lives there, so the more smashed plates you wake up to, the luckier your year will be.

Locals even keep their chipped china and broken plates in their home throughout the year, especially to throw on New Year’s Eve.

Danes also believe it's lucky to leap off a chair at the strike of midnight, which symbolises jumping into the New Year.

Oh dough!

The Irish used to bang loaves of bread against the wall when the clock struck midnight.

It was supposed to ward off bad spirits while welcoming good ones into the house.

No crying over spilt… ice cream

An even sweeter food-based tradition takes place in Switzerland, where it's customary to drop ice cream on to the floor.

The dessert-dropping is meant to bring peace and good luck in the New Year.

Sweetening the deal

Like the Swiss, the French turn to a sugary treat for their New Year celebrations.

But they actually eat the pancakes that are traditional in France on New Year's Eve instead of throwing them on the floor.

Pick your underwear wisely…

In several South American countries, they believe you decide your fate with the colour of your pants.

Red underwear means you’ll find love in the New Year, while gold will bring you wealth.

And for those seeking a calmer year, wearing white underwear is said to bring peace.

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