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How Countries Around the World Celebrate New Year’s Day?

Posted by Anne Q. on December 16, 2021.

The challenging year 2021 has nearly come to an end and New Year’s Day is almost here. New Year’s Day is the time to reflect on the previous 365 days while also looking forward to the future. This special day is celebrated in the United States with a big ball drop in Times Square or people singing auld lang syne. What about other parts of the world?

If you are conducting businesses in foreign markets, it is necessary to know the customs and traditions of the locals when it comes to New Year’s Day celebration. This knowledge can help you blend in better with your foreign co-workers or make a good impression on your target audiences.

Let’s find out how countries around the world celebrate New Year’s Day!

New Year’s Day in European Countries


While in some cultures, breaking things is a bad sign, Danish people welcome New Year’s Day by smashing unused plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends. This action is performed with the aim of warding off evil spirits. Some people even stand on chairs and jump off of them together at midnight in the hopes of bringing good luck.

How people in Denmark celebrate New Year's Day

They also celebrate this day by listening to the Queen’s speech before proceeding to the Royal Palace in Copenhagen to await the clock’s chime.


People in Spain have a unique way to celebrate New Year’s Day. It is a custom to eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve, one at each stroke of the clock. Each grape is a representation of a month of good fortune in the coming year. If you are able to get all of them into your mouth, all of your wishes will come true!

How people in Spain celebrate New Year's Day

Eating grapes and passing around bottles of cava while gathering in main squares in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona are some popular activities of Spanish people on New Year’s Eve.

Another tradition is to wear coloured underwear, with each colour representing a different wish for the new year.


In preparation for New Year’s Day, people in Ireland make sure their entire house, including their gardens and cars, are cleaned without a spot. They have the custom of throwing bread at the walls as the clock approaches midnight to ward off evil spirits.

How people in Ireland celebrate New Year's Day

Following this is usually a special dinner during which they remember family and close friends who have died. To remember their loved ones, they leave the door unlocked and take a seat at the table.


If you are offered a cake on New Year’s Day in Greece, you may need tough teeth. As January 1st is also Saint Basil’s Day in Greece, many Greeks celebrate this day with extra-special customs. They bake St. Basil’s Cake with one special ingredient – a coin made of gold or silver. If you get a slice of cake that contains this coin, you will have a full lucky year.

How people in Greece celebrate New Year's Day


Every year, millions of people flock to Berlin for one of Europe’s largest New Year’s Eve celebrations. It is called Silvester during which people throw parties, watch fireworks, and drink Sekt (German sparkling wine).

Families melt lead at home by holding a flame beneath a tablespoon, then putting it into water. The pattern shown is said to predict the coming year. For example, a heart or ring shape denotes an impending wedding while a pig denotes plenty of food.

How people in Germany celebrate New Year's Day


New Year’s Day in American Countries


Many Brazilians believe that wearing white on New Year’s Eve will bring them good luck and peace in the coming year. Wearing special underwear on New Year’s Eve is considered lucky in Brazil, as well as other Central and South American countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. The most popular colours for the New Year are red (which is thought to bring love) and yellow (which is believed to bring money).

How people in Brazil celebrate New Year's Day

Brazilians also make life-sized dolls with masks on their faces. These dolls represent negative events from the previous year, and they are burned at midnight on New Year’s Eve to release these negative memories and make room for some positive ones.


The Año Neuvo is a time to embrace new beginnings. This is celebrated by throwing buckets of water out the window and opening the front door, symbolically sweeping out the previous year. Coins are tossed onto the ground and swept back into the house as a way to encourage a prosperous future.

How people in Mexico celebrate New Year's Day

Mexican also enjoy attending decorative parties, parades, and festivals, completing with spectacular fireworks.


Some Colombians carry empty suitcases around the block in the hope of a travel-filled new year. Meanwhile, the locals in the Valle del Cauca region and the city of Cali have a special tradition of going to the Pance River early on New Year’s Eve to bathe in the river to cleanse themselves of any negative energy that may be present.

How people in Columbia celebrate New Year's Day


New Year’s Day in Asian Countries


Chinese people celebrate the Lunar New Year which occurs on the first new moon that appears (It’s usually between January 21 and February 20). People clean their house and decorate it with new items in red colour.

How people in China celebrate New Year's Day

Parades of dancing dragons and lions are performed on crowded streets as a representation of longevity and wealth. People across the country set off plastic firecrackers to create loud noises that frighten away evil spirits.

Another well-known tradition of Chinese people during New Year’s Day is to give lucky money to their loved ones. These are placed in red envelopes with their family name and good luck messages written in gold on the outside.


On New Year’s Eve (Oshogatsu お正月), all the bells in Japan are rung 108 times. This is consistent with the Buddhist belief that the new year should be clean. The holiday is celebrated in Japan with a three-day festival full of games, food, and family.

How people in Japan celebrate New Year's Day

To welcome good spirits, people place pine branches, bamboo, and plum twigs which is called kadomatsu 門松 outside their homes, one on either side of the entrance. Adult relative usually gives Otoshidama お 年 玉 – a monetary gift – to children on this occasion.

The Philippines

On New Year’s Day, round shapes can be found all over the Philippines. This is because people in the Philippines believe that the round shape symbolizes prosperity for the coming year.

How people in Philippines celebrate New Year's Day

Many families have fruit piles on their dining tables, and some people eat 12 round fruits (the most common being grapes) at midnight. Many people wear polka dots for good luck as well.


Songkran is a well-known Thai water festival that marks the start of the traditional Thai New Year. During Songkran, Thais have a tradition of smearing each other with grey talc. The talc represents the previous year’s sins, with the water washing away all wrongdoings. The three-day festival includes the lighting of candles and incense at shrines.

How people in Thailand celebrate New Year's Day

During New Year’s Day, like people in other countries, Thais play games, eat traditional foods and spend quality time with their families.


To Sum Up

New Year’s Day customs vary from country to country, with each having its own way of celebrating. Acknowledging, respecting, and celebrating these diverse customs are of great importance when it comes to doing business in foreign countries. GTE Localize‘s team wish you a prosperous year ahead!