Europe’s 11 Wackiest New Year Traditions

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New Years is one of the best holidays because it’s occurs all over the globe! If you’re in Europe, or wanting to make your way there, and have a crazy time, the continent will not disappoint. If you’re spending the New Year in one of these countries, you’d better get clued up about some of these strange traditions first and choose your wacky adventure…

1. Belarus

During the Belarusian winter festival Kaliady (which last from 25th December to 7th January), single ladies discover whether the New Year will bring them luck in love by playing games. In one, each woman in a group is given a pile of corn and then set on by a rooster – the woman whose corn he goes for will be the first to marry. In another, the unmarried women must search for objects hidden by a married female friend that symbolise their future fortunes – finding a ring means their future husband will be handsome, while finding bread means he shall be rich.

2. Denmark

Danes smash plates and glasses against their loved ones’ front doors to bring them luck, and also jump off chairs in one synchronised leap as the clock strikes midnight in order to banish bad spirits.

3. Estonia

Traditionally, Estonians eat seven, nine or twelve meals on New Year’ Eve – not only are these lucky numbers, but it is believed that the diner will gain the strength of that many men over the upcoming year. Meals cannot be completely finished through, lest any visiting spirits or ghostly ancestors are peckish.

4. Finland

Finns indulge in a bit of molybdomancy each New Year’ Eve – predicting future fortunes by throwing melted metal into cold water and analysing the result.

5. Germany

For reasons unknown, Germans see in the New Year by watching an old comedy sketch called ‘Dinner for One’, which features 90-year-old Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who’s invited all the friends she has outlived to dinner, and her butler, who stands in for them all and gets drunk as a skunk as a result. The catchphrase “Same procedure as every year!” has made its way into everyday use in Germany, this sketch is so popular. It’s also considered good luck to eat a miniature marzipan pig, or touch a chimney sweep.

6. Greece

Greek children sing New Year carols while adults cook a King’s Pie – an almond cake with a wrapped up coin hidden inside. At midnight, the lights go off so that people can ‘enter the year with a new light’, and then the King’s Pie is eaten. Whoever finds the coin will be lucky for the year to come.

7. Italy

In addition to wearing red underwear for luck, Italians ring in the New Year by eating a spoonful of lentil stew with each clock chime at midnight – the lentils represent coins, and custom says will bring good fortune.

8. Netherlands

The Dutch tradition of carbide shooting took off after World War II, when farmers at a loose end decided to use the leftover explosives and milk jugs lying about to make some homemade cannons and see in the new year in style.

9. Scotland

For Hogmanay, Scots indulge in the tradition of ‘first-footing’, which states that the first person to cross a home’s threshold in the New Year must come bearing a gift for luck (usually whiskey or a lump of coal).

10. Spain

Spanish people stuff 12 grapes into their mouths at midnight – one for each stroke of the clock – before toasting the New Year, to ensure good luck for each upcoming month.

11. Wales

Welsh people get to wake up on New Year’s Day, not just to a pounding hangover, but to gifts such as bread and cheese, thanks to the ancient tradition of giving gifts and money at the start of each year.

 

Will you be seeing in the New Year in Europe? Let us know how it’s spent.

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About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.

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