Happy New Year Around the World

From the American South to the hills of Romania, how children ring in the new year with their parents.

Armenia

Mothers make a special bread for their family, kneading luck and good wishes into the dough before it is baked.

Bahamas

People spend months creating elaborate costumes for the Junkanoo parade. The strangest and most beautiful costumes win prizes.

Bolivia

Families hang little homemade straw or wooden dolls outside their homes for good luck.

Denmark

The Danes throw old dishes at the doors of friends' homes for good luck. Finding a big pile of broken dishes on the morning of January 1 means you have lots of friends!

Ecuador

Families celebrate "Año Viejo" by stuffing old clothing with newspaper and firecrackers, much like a scarecrow. At midnight, each family sets its dummy ablaze, representing the departure of the old year.

Greece

Parents fill their children's shoes with presents at night. They tell the little ones the gifts are from St. Basil, who was known for his kindness and generosity to children and the poor.

Japan

The Japanese decorate their front doors with pine branches and bamboo to bring health and long life. They may also add fans, seaweed, or ferns for happiness and good luck. Children are given small gifts of money called otoshidamas. At midnight, bells and gongs are rung 108 times to chase away 108 troubles, and people laugh to drive away the bad spirits.

Portugal

In the north, children go caroling, singing old songs called Janeiros from home to home, where they are given sweets and coins.

Puerto Rico

Children throw pails of water out the window at midnight to rid their homes of evil spirits.

Romania

Children wish people a happy new year by touching them lightly with a bouquet called a sorcova, which consists of twigs from an apple, pear, cherry, or plum tree to represent fertility, health, and purity. Traditionally the twigs would have been placed in water on November 30 so they'd blossom by New Year's Eve. Today people decorate the twigs with flowers made of colored paper.

The Southern United States

Many Southerners eat black-eyed peas for good luck. Round foods are traditional for the new year in many cultures because circles represent continuity. Black-eyed peas are considered especially lucky because they contain two concentric circles

Spain

When the clock strikes midnight, people eat 12 grapes, one for every stroke of the clock and for good luck in each month of the new year.

Switzerland

The Swiss let a drop of cream land on the floor on New Year's Day to bring good luck.

Copyright © 2002.

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