The year’s coming to an end, and you know what that means. It’s time to break out the fireworks and champagne to bid farewell to 2021. But that’s not how it goes everywhere in the world. Different peoples have very different ways (and times) to welcome in the new year.
We’ve looked at unusual traditions, like weddings, before. So, here are six ways to celebrate New Year’s from across the globe.
1) Japan — Ringing a Bell 108 Times
Japan’s most known for its native Shinto religion, but Buddhism also has a firm foothold in the country. On New Year, Japanese Buddhists make sure the change in the calendar is heard far and wide.
During New Year’s celebrations — or Oshogatsu — Buddhist temples all around will ring a bell. And they do it 108 times in a row.
Each time the bell tolls, it drives away one of 108 primary evil passions that plague all humanity, according to the Buddhist creed. This way, the Buddhist monks cleanse people of the past year’s sins and let them get a fresh start.
According to tradition, 107 of the tolls must be made during the previous year. Only the last 108th ring should be in the New Year.
2) Italy — Throwing Out Your Furniture
In some parts of Italy, such as Naples, people really live by the words “out with the old” on New Year’s. That’s why they chuck their furniture out the window.
It’s a tradition in these parts — and in Johannesburg in South Africa, for some reason — to get rid of your old or unwanted furniture on New Year’s. And they don’t take the stuff to Goodwill either, they just throw it out from their balconies.
Tossing the furniture symbolizes making a fresh start for the coming year. It’s a fascinating tradition, but you probably don’t want to be out on the street in Naples when the clocks roll over.
3) Chile — Gathering in Graveyards
Now this tradition is about as local as you can get. In the city of Talca in Chile, people don’t celebrate New Year’s in the comfort of their homes.
Instead, they gather in the city’s graveyards in their thousands for a late-night New Year’s mass. This way, Talca residents can say hello to the coming year in the company of even their passed-on relatives.
On top of everything that usually goes with a Catholic mass, the celebrations include lighting candles and playing classical music. We couldn’t find out how this tradition started, but it’s a nice sentiment.
4) Europe — Melting Tin
Some countries in northern and eastern Europe, like Germany, Bulgaria, and Finland, begin the New Year with a bit of fortune telling. They melt a small piece of tin and drop it into cold water.
The shape of the re-solidified tin chunk is supposed to tell you what you can expect from the coming year. Others say you’re supposed to hold the piece of metal next to a flame and interpret the shape of the shadow instead.
The traditional material for this practice was lead, but we’re all probably aware that messing around with lead can quickly turn toxic. That’s why people switched to tin, but even that can produce lead fumes when melted.
Health authorities in some countries are now encouraging people to switch again to wax or sugar. But whether those materials will produce a reliable fortune, we couldn’t say.
5) Denmark — Breaking Plates
The Danish, kind of like the Italians, start the New Year with a bang. But instead of old furniture, the Scandinavians smash up plates.
It’s a Danish tradition to throw china plates at your friend’s and neighbor’s front doors on New Year’s Eve. By doing so, you’re supposedly letting go of any aggression or ill-will you might be harboring and going into the New Year with a clean plate.
In fact, the bigger the pile of smashed-up dishes in front of your door, the better your luck in the year will be. Maybe so, but this sounds like one expensive tradition.
6) Russia — Drinking Ashes
The Russians, like many in the West, celebrate the New Year with a glass of bubbly. But they also like to mix in a special ingredient — ash.
In some parts of Russia, it’s a tradition to write your hopes and wishes for the coming year down on a piece of paper. But how can you make sure those wishes come true?
It’s simple, really. Just burn the paper and stir the ashes into your glass of champagne.
We’re not exactly sure how this helps you materialize your wishes. Maybe you’re more likely to work towards your New Year’s decisions if you’re carrying them around in your stomach.