New Year’s traditions abroad that may surprise tourists

Interesting New Year traditions of different countries and nations of the world

New Year is upon us! Every time we think up something interesting for this merry holiday: we change the interior, buy presents, try to diversify the menu. The very course of the holiday is largely dictated by the traditions passing from year to year: a decorated Christmas tree, fragrant tangerines, fireworks, chimes, splashes of champagne and notes with wishes. All this is familiar to us from childhood. But in other countries, too, there are their own customs, sometimes amusing or even extravagant, which can be tastefully “woven” into the script for their own home holiday. Let’s “visit” the different peoples of Russia, and then take a little pre-New Year’s excursion to different countries of the world. Let’s go!

Interesting New Year traditions of different peoples and countries

Interesting New Year traditions of different peoples and countries

New Year traditions of the peoples of Russia

The customs relating to the New Year are colorful and varied among the peoples of Russia.

Santa Claus and the Snow Maiden

Santa Claus and the Snow Maiden

Residents of some republics celebrate two holidays: a common holiday and a national one. This is the case, for example, in Tatarstan.


The conventional New Year also comes in the night from December 31 to January 1, and Navruz (National New Year) falls at the end of March. The holiday is celebrated with the family, followed by a visit of guests. Gifts for children are handed out by Kysh-Babai and Kar-Kazy. As you have already guessed, it is Santa Claus and the Snow Maiden.

Kysh-Babai and his granddaughter Kar-Kyzy. Photo from

Kysh-Babai and his granddaughter Kar-Kazy. Photo from

  • chak-chak (oriental pastry with honey),
  • gubadia (a round cake with a filling),
  • urama (tartar-style horseradish),
  • cakes made of lentils, millet, peas, etc.

Sakha (Yakutia)

The New Year is called Yysakh in Yakut. The main and very spectacular tradition is the making of huge bonfires and roundelays around them. It is noteworthy that round dances can last for several days. It is believed that in this way a person will be charged with positive energy for the whole year.


Buryatians also celebrate the New Year twice: on January 1 and in February. The holiday is called Sagaan Sar (White Month). On the eve of the White Month the house is put in perfect order, especially unmarried girls. It is believed that if the floor is dirty, the girl will ask an ugly or drunk man to marry her. Immediately before Sagaan Sar the hosts enter the house and close the door tightly behind them so that all troubles will stay behind, i.e. in the outgoing year. At the front door they put a broom and a piece of transparent ice.

New Year in Buryatia. Photo from

New Year in Buryatia. Photo from


Karelians used to call the winter holidays sundum . The customs were much like the Christmas holidays in Russia. Fortune telling was held, fancy-dressers walked the streets. Until our days we still have the custom of “a hearty table” to make the year appropriate. Housewives bake spun pies, oatmeal pancakes, and make barley porridge.

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This is just a small fraction of the peoples and their New Year traditions, but even from this small overview you can understand that in many ways the customs of seeing off the old year and welcoming the new year in Russia are similar. Symbols of the old year and the troubles that go with it are cleaning the house, washing clothes and taking bathing procedures. The meeting of the New Year and the impending renewal begins with decorating the house, with clean holiday clothes and a rich table, at which relatives and friends gather. And what happens at this time in foreign countries?

New Year’s traditions in Europe

If we compare the Russians with the inhabitants of other countries, we can say that the mentality of Europeans is closest to us. There is only one major difference: Europeans pay more attention to Christmas (December 25). But they do not forget about New Year.


On the night of January 1, a huge stream of Vienna residents and tourists flock to St. Stephen’s Cathedral to hear the sound of the “Peace Bell” (a universal call for a peaceful life).

Christmas fair in Vienna. Natalia Davidovich /

Christmas market in Vienna. Natalia Davidovich /

In the olden days it was considered a good omen to see a chimney sweep before the New Year and even get soiled in soot by touching his clothes. But nowadays it’s not so easy to see a chimney sweep, so the Austrians have “replaced” the object. Now the pig is considered as a good sign. They are given to each other with the wishes of a prosperous life. They can be different in material (porcelain, plastic, etc.) and purpose figurines: piggy banks, Christmas tree toys, etc.


The Albanian New Year has many names, but the most favorite is Kolendre . That’s the name of the traditional ring-shaped cake . There are also many customs because of the dominance of Christian and Muslim cultures on the territory of Albania. This led to some confusion of traditions. Now the holiday is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country. The most common custom is the burning of a log. By the way, the same custom also exists among the peoples of Chechnya. About a week before New Year’s Eve they bring a cut tree into the house. Ideally, it should be straight and beautiful. On the festive night, it is burned together with herbs, symbols of fertility. They bring prosperity and banish all hardships from the house.


The inherent attribute of the New Year – dogwood sticks. In the morning of January 1, children must come up to the adults and, by hitting the sticks to each other, congratulate them.

Inalienable attribute of the New Year - dogwood sticks

An indispensable attribute of the New Year – dogwood sticks

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Also the youngest member of the family meets guests and sings carols to them. Naturally, not for free: for sweets and other treats. And the most interesting thing comes with the last beat of the clock on New Year’s Eve – a three-minute “kissing pause. New Year’s kisses replace toasts for Bulgarians . And if you sneeze at the most inopportune moment, don’t be embarrassed: the owners of the house will be only happy. After all, it will bring good luck to the family.


Swedes don’t celebrate New Year with family. Christmas – yes, but the New Year is a “public” holiday. It is better to celebrate it with colleagues, friends and acquaintances, and even better – on the street with neighbors and just gawkers.

The Netherlands

Residents of the Netherlands love to choose a New Year’s Eve king. The mistress of the house must make a cake and hide a pea in it. Whoever gets it, he is “crowned” and can choose his entourage.

Traditional New Year's table in the Netherlands

Traditional New Year’s Eve table in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, it is customary to visit on New Year’s Eve with a match. The match is burned in a stove or in a fireplace. A match burned completely – expect happiness and good luck in the coming year.


Italians are noisy and temperamental people. Their New Year traditions are just as extravagant. For example, in Italy it is customary to give each other red underwear, throw out of the windows unnecessary things. This last tradition is gradually abandoned because of its high risk of injury. Although no one would be surprised if a chair were thrown out of a window.

New Year's Eve fireworks over the Colosseum

New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Colosseum

And, of course, it is necessary to make noise – as much and as loudly as possible, with songs, shouting, and fireworks.

New Year’s traditions in America

There are no special traditions that are not known to us in the countries of America. They are much like European traditions.

There are no special traditions in American countries that we don't know

There are no special traditions not known to us in the countries of America.


Having earned the title of a country with a huge immigrant population, Canada celebrates New Year’s Eve in Italian, Russian, and French – in different parts in different ways. The festivities begin in the family circle at home and then carry over to the streets.


On the last working day of the old year the Argentines say goodbye to the old year without regret: old calendars, receipts, forms and other unnecessary documents are thrown away. The sidewalks under the windows are covered with a thick layer of paper, which is then, of course, cleaned up. But the custom, despite the subsequent cleanup, is fun. Immediately on New Year’s Eve, a bottle of champagne is opened and fireworks are lit.


Residents of Brazil are required to bring gifts to the goddess of the sea . Women and men dressed in white bring thousands of lighted candles or white petals to the shore. The romantic part is followed by the festivities and carnivals. Everyone has fun, laughs, congratulates each other, and wears carnival costumes.

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Giving gifts to the goddess of the sea in Brazil. Photo from

Offerings to the goddess of the sea in Brazil. Photo from


Mexicans won’t burn a piece of paper with a wish and drink its ashes along with champagne at the chime of the clock. They will eat 12 grapes and make 12 wishes.

12 grapes - 12 wishes

Twelve grapes, twelve wishes.

Something will come true!

In the United States, the New Year begins on December 31. On that day, 365 days are to be spent in the past. And January 1 begins with festive parades and processions.

New Year’s traditions in Asia and Africa

With Asian countries, the case is a little more complicated than with American or European countries. It’s all about the Chinese calendar. According to it, the New Year comes in the period from January 21 to February 19. However, some countries also celebrate January 1.


Japan has grand celebrations. For the Japanese, it’s a big holiday.

Tokyo on New Year's Eve

Tokyo on New Year’s Eve.

It lasts for a week. Banks, large stores and organizations stop their work. In the run-up to the holiday postcards are prepared with the image of an animal symbol of the year. At the entrance door is built kadomatsu – a special decoration of straw, bamboo or pine branches.

Traditional Japanese New Year paraphernalia

Traditional Japanese New Year’s decorations

You should also prepare a couple of multi-colored kites. But only men should fly them. The branches of plum (a symbol of help), bamboo (a symbol of children) and pine (a symbol of longevity) should be placed inside the house. On New Year’s Eve, everyone in the house should laugh loudly to chase away evil spirits.

Interesting: During the New Year’s week, you can’t say the following words: fox, dragon, tiger, snake, death, demons. If someone has not followed his speech (usually children), they need to wipe their mouth with a special ritual cloth.


On New Year’s Eve the Vietnamese do not stay at home. It is customary for them to make bonfires outside, treat each other with rice dishes, and release live carp into a pond or river, because God, according to their beliefs, swims on the back of this fish. Sprigs of peach are presented to guests as gifts. And the ideal guest is a person over the age of 70. If in his company to meet the holiday, his wisdom will be transferred to the owner of the house and the other guests.


In this country, you will not find any Christmas trees or the usual paraphernalia. Instead, the Thais will shower you with water. This tradition is aimed at attracting good luck and purification.

The Thais will shower you with water

The Thais will throw water on you


One of the most vibrant and exotic countries. On New Year’s Eve is strictly prohibited in a bad mood. Although it’s very difficult when everything around you is decorated with white, purple, pink and bright red flowers, lights flash everywhere, and gifts are waiting for you on a tray.

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In China, it is customary to decorate the Tree of Light, the equivalent of our Christmas tree. In addition to the Tree, the Chinese stock up on a fair amount of various lanterns. They must illuminate the new year and the way to it.

In China it's customary to decorate the Tree of Light

In China, it is customary to decorate the Tree of Light.

And before the holiday itself it is accepted to tape the windows and doors with rice paper to scare away evil spirits, and on the New Year’s Eve blow up firecrackers, so that the spirits must be frightened and leave their homes.

African customs are borrowed from France or England. This is because many of them were colonies of those countries. Purely African customs are rare.

South Africa welcomes the year with merry carnivals, ringing bells and gun volleys, and getting rid of old household items. These can be boxes, dishes, furniture, appliances – anything.

Kenya and Ethiopia

Kenyans and Ethiopians celebrate the New Year on or near the water : bathing, pouring water on, boating or just sitting on the shore.

Ethiopian girls on New Year's Eve. Photo from

Ethiopian girls on New Year’s Day. Photo from

Central Africa

In the region of Côte d’Ivoire, there is an interesting tradition, in addition to ritual dancing, which is speed running with a chicken egg in its mouth . Whoever is first to come running and does not break the egg wins.

Interesting: The record holder for an exotic celebration is Australia . There is no snow, no Christmas trees, no reindeer team, but there are palm trees, sun, ocean and Santa Claus the surfer.

Santa Claus the surfer

Santa Claus the surfer.

Yes, that’s how they celebrate New Year in Australia: in the sun, with a surfboard and in a traditional Santa Claus costume. And another Australian custom is to jump over 7 waves .

List of New Year’s traditions can go on and on. They are all bright, interesting and noteworthy. Maybe there’s something on this list that appeals to you. Or maybe you have your own interesting traditions that you want to share with your readers?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

And how interesting it was to read your article, Natalia! Different peoples living next to each other have such different traditions. The Tatar Santa Claus – Kysh-Babai – made me laugh with his name. In our country if you tell a child that Babai will bring a present, he will be frightened, but in the Tatar people it has a completely different meaning. In Yakutia, too, it’s curious. Amidst the snow, a large and bright bonfire is tempting. You can also take yourself part of the New Year’s tradition of the Netherlands in part – to play king. Especially if the company is going to be large. It will be fun and unusual. The Mexicans are good, why choke on paper when you can eat delicious berries of grapes and think wishful thinking. Oh, and the Japanese celebrate New Year’s Eve just like we do – long and big. In my republic, the traditions of many nations are so intertwined that you wouldn’t know what kind of celebration a family would have. We begin our celebrations with Christmas according to the Catholic tradition, on December 25, and finish them on January 7, according to the Orthodox tradition. Naturally, the New Year is woven in between. On New Year’s Eve, the mosh Krechun, the equivalent of Santa Claus, and his granddaughter, alba de weste, the Snowgirl, come to visit with gifts. It is considered that all year long Santa Claus Craciun is fighting the evil done by Baba Yaga, but on New Year’s Eve the good wins and Mosh Craciun can bring gifts to those who helped him in his fight with his good deeds. I and my family celebrate the New Year with my family, we stick more to Russian traditions.

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Valentina, I’m sorry. Before this comment, I was talking to Natasha Petrova, so I guess that’s where the thought went.

I also had a similar)). It was a funny situation, and the addressee was almost offended)) So now I check myself just in case probably because of this and your bloopoopu notices

Katherine, thanks for the nice pre-holiday excursion into the traditions of different peoples! So many similar and so many dissimilar in different parts of the world for this beautiful holiday! Even if it is at different calendar dates) it is a common holiday New Year! And we have even two of them: New Year and Old New Year. Try to translate it for a foreigner. And if you remember even older history, then on March 1 it would be nice to celebrate New Year again.

And in Greece, too, very interesting! There is an analogue of Santa Claus – Saint Basil and his cake – vasilopita, in which, according to tradition, they bake a coin. Whoever gets a coin, will be happy the whole year!

Not for the first year I read and listen in Russian sources about the Bulgarian tradition of kissing on New Year’s Eve. But none of my acquaintances, who live in different regions of the country, has heard about it. The youngest Bulgarian children beat adults on the back with cornelian sticks – it gives them good health and longevity. And songs with wishes (carols) are sung on Christmas (Koledu). New Year is a more public holiday, it is celebrated here with friends and colleagues. In our village, we necessarily organize a get-together on the 31st evening – everyone who wants to come with their contribution to the common table. Activists bake a large loaf with secret wishes for all.

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