While some traditions are present in multiple countries – think about fireworks, the infamous new year’s resolutions, the countdown, or popping a bottle of champagne – different traditions can be found around the world. Not too long ago, I discovered that a popular tradition in Spain is to eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Why specifically 12? Well, there is one grape for each of the bell strikes after midnight, and it is supposed to bring prosperity and good luck for the new year. While some say Spanish vine growers back in the 1800s came up with this tradition to sell more grapes, others believe that the bourgeoisie imitated the champagne drinking of the rich (but then eating it). Regardless of the origin, I thought it was a fun tradition to try as I was still in Barcelona for New Year’s. So, I bought the grapes (they even sell them in packs of 12 here) and ate them at midnight – although I don’t think that I ate them at the exact time as there were no bell tolls at the place I wanted to watch the fireworks, but it’s the thought that counts right?
This ‘discovery’ about the grapes made me curious about New Year’s traditions in other countries. Having grown up in the Netherlands, I always celebrated New Year’s with oliebollen (Dutch fried dough balls, typically eaten with powdered sugar) and a glass of (children’s) champagne, and watched the fireworks at midnight. In Germany, my German teacher once told me that a New Year’s tradition is to melt lead and pour it into cold water. The lead will form into a shape, and this is supposed to reveal your fortune for the new year. Another fun tradition is one in Denmark, where people jump off a couch or chair at midnight. This is done because “jumping into the new year” is seen as good luck. Something else that is seen as good luck (at least for one person) is eating a cake called Vasilopita, which is done in Greece. Before baking, a coin is put inside the cake and whoever finds it in their slice will receive good fortune during the new year.
While some New Year’s traditions have been mentioned here, there are certainly way more to find, and some might even create their own. So, what are yours?
Reflecting on the past year, I would say that 2021 really flew by. For me, it was a year of uncertainty – due to the virus we are all familiar with, finding an internship, questioning if my exchange would be cancelled – but also a year of new experiences, discoveries, and fun. Let’s hope this will be the year the pandemic will finally be under control (22 happens to be my lucky number so who knows), but, regardless of that, I hope you will achieve or do some of the things you always wanted to. A happy new year to all of you who are celebrating!
Author: Marit van der Kwaak
Editor: Phoebe Elliott
Visuals by: Thanh Nguyen