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In the United States, New Year's festivities can range from low-key family get-togethers to a raucous party that climaxes with a countdown as the ball drops in Times Square. But although these are some of the most popular ways to celebrate the start of a new year, they're not the only ways to party. Here are nine unique New Year's Eve traditions around the world.
Eat 12 Grapes (Spain)
If you’re traveling to Spain to celebrate New Year's, then make sure you have some grapes on hand. As the clock strikes midnight, you need to eat 12 grapes. Each grape represents a month of the year and symbolizes good luck. So, while some people need a New Year's Eve kiss for good luck, the Spanish need their grapes. While Spain is credited for the tradition, the custom is also common in many Latin American countries, which use other round fruits instead of grapes.
Break a Glass or Plate (Denmark)
You might think that breaking a plate is strictly a Greek custom, but Danes are also fans of the practice. In Denmark, people throw plates and glasses at a friend's or relative's front door to prevent evil spirits from traveling into the home in the new year. The number of visitors who throw dishes at your door symbolizes how lucky you are.
Burn an Effigy (Panama)
Burning an effigy (sculpture or model of a person) is typically frowned upon unless you’re in the middle of a protest. But in Panama, this unusual practice is perfectly normal on New Year's Eve. It’s said that burning a muñeco (effigy) of a movie or television character gets rid of bad energy and evil spirits before you enter the new year. The practice is also popular in other Latin American countries.
Ring Bells (Japan)
In Japan, Buddhist temples ring their bells on New Year's Eve 108 times. This annual tradition is known as Joya-no-Kane. In the Buddhist religion, there are 108 potential sins that you can commit, so ringing the bells is a way of cleansing yourself of those sins as you enter the new year.
Paint the Town Red (China)
If you've ever heard the expression "Paint the town red," it might come as a surprise that China takes the phrase quite literally. In China, many people paint their front doors red on the Lunar New Year since the color symbolizes good luck and good fortune. By painting your front door red or adding red ornaments, you’re encouraging prosperity and good fortune for the coming year.
Take a Bite of Bread (Armenia)
Consuming a particularly fortuitous piece of food isn’t a strange custom around the world, but instead of black-eyed peas and cornbread, Armenians indulge on bread to ring in the new year. What makes this bread so special? Well, it’s made by hand — usually by Armenian mothers — who knead good luck into it.
Drink Your Wishes (Russia)
Many people toast with a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve, but Russians take the custom a step further. Before you raise your glass, you need to write down your wishes for the new year and then burn them. Here’s where it gets interesting: The ashes from your burned wish need to be sprinkled into your glass of champagne, which you have to drink before the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Smooch and Sing (United Kingdom)
You might think that this is an American New Year's Eve tradition, but it shouldn’t shock you that we tend to borrow a lot from our friends across the pond. Giving someone a New Year's kiss, as well as huddling with friends or family in the cold to sing "Auld Lang Syne," are two traditions that hail from the U.K. The song "Auld Lang Syne" comes from a Scottish poem.
Join a Lively Parade (The Bahamas)
It's unsurprising that a place known for carnivals would also turn New Year's Eve into lively celebration. In the Bahamas, locals ring in the new year with an elaborate Junkanoo parade with colorful costumes, music, and dancing.