New Year isn’t just a time for getting smashed and making vain, hope-filled promises for the year to come. All around the world, people take part in ritual celebrations that are believed to bring luck, prosperity or love to those who take part. From diving into a frozen Siberian lake to swinging fireballs, or just eating yourself silly, our mad world is brimming with weird New Year’s celebrations.
Denmark: A smashing year
The quirky Danes smash plates at the doors of their friends’ houses on New Year’s Eve. Apparently finding a heap of broken dishes on your doorstep when you’re dealing with your New Year hangover is a great thing. Hmmm.
Philippines: They’ve gone dotty
The turn of the year is a veritable minefield of superstitions and traditions for Filipinos, who believe that wearing polka dots and scattering coins around the house will lead to prosperity for the coming year. All doors and windows are also left open to let fortune (and fortunate robbers) in. Scared of evil spirits? Just make as much noise as you can. And the best news of all – you shouldn’t clean anything on New Year’s Day in case you sweep away good fortune.
Germany: Dinner for one
This inexplicable tradition sees Germans tune in to a virtually unknown British comedy sketch from 1963, Dinner for One. The black and white film (in English) about a 90th birthday is broadcast on German television every Silvester and attracts millions of viewers. It was originally aired as a filler on New Year’s Eve, 1972, but was so popular that it gained a regular place in the yearly TV schedule.
Peru: Flying fists
The Takanakuy Festival, which takes place on Christmas Day in the province of Chumbivilcas, sees local men and women of all ages square up to each other in a series of public fist fights, designed to settle grievances built up over the year and strengthen community bonds for the year ahead. So, if you’re going to piss someone off, do it on January 4 – chances are they’ll have forgotten about it by the time December comes around.
Russia: Underwater dancing
There’s nothing better for a raging hangover than heading into the depths of Siberia in the middle of winter and diving into the deepest lake in the world. Luckily, only professional divers need apply for the yearly tradition of cutting a hole in the ice at Lake Baikal, diving to the bottom with a tree, and swim-dancing around it.
Chile: Graveyard camping
This tradition only goes back 15 years. It began when a family in Talca broke into the local cemetery to spend the night next to their father’s grave. More than 5,000 locals now head to the cemetery every year to listen to classical music and spend some time with their deceased relatives.
Scotland: Great balls of fire
In the North Sea fishing town of Stonehaven, tens of locals walk the high street swinging balls of fire attached to wire handles around their heads. One way to heat up a Scottish December night…
Romania: Animal whispering and dancing bears
Romanian farmers attempt to communicate with their cows over the first days of January. If they hear their animals ‘speak’ to them it signifies good luck for the year. If, however, your darling cow shuns you, your year will be ill-fated.The Romanians also dress up as bears and dance around in front of their houses to dispel evil spirits and usher in a year of peace.
Estonia: Eat yourself lucky
Here’s one few people would have a problem with: Estonians eat seven to 12 meals on New Year’s Day, which is supposed to bring an abundance of food for the coming year. No complaints there.
South Africa: Toss off
In Hillbrow, Johannesburg, residents chuck old furniture out of their window in a bid to start the new year afresh. Seems sensible – as long as you’re not on the pavement outside.