New Year Traditions Across the World

New Year is celebrated all over the world, but traditions vary. Here are some of the most popular New Year traditions.


New Year Traditions

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne is the most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year’s eve. It is an old Scottish song that was made popular by bandleader Guy Lombardo who sang the song at midnight at a New Year’s eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929, and a tradition was born. It is often remarked that “Auld Lang Syne” is one of the most popular songs that nobody knows the lyrics to. “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by.” The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness.

Hogmanay (Scotland)

Hogmanay is the rousing Scottish New Year’s celebration. One of the traditions is ‘first-footing.’ Shortly after midnight on New Year’s eve, neighbours pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, First foots used to bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or bread.

Oshogatsu (Japan)

The New Year is the most important holiday in Japan, and is a symbol of renewal. In December, various Bonenkai or “forget-the-year parties” are held to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a new beginning. At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in an effort to expel 108 types of human weakness.


The Spanish ritual on New Year’s eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year.


In Greece, New Year’s day is also the Festival of St. Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the traditional foods served is St Basil’s cake. A silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be especially lucky during the coming year.

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