New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, introspection, and goal-setting, but it’s also for spending time with loved ones and seeing the present year out with one last hurrah.
It’s followed by people trying desperately to remember to add one to the year number they’re used to writing on documents and sticking to New Year’s resolutions, which 45 percent of Americans usually make.
Celebrating the New Year dates back to 4,000 years ago, when the Babylonians celebrated at the first full moon after the spring equinox. It’s a time of hope and new beginnings, and at the conclusion of each year, many welcome that mental milestone for starting again.
Maybe that’s why over one million people gather together in New York City’s Times Square to watch the ball drop, and over one billion watch it on television. Fireworks are set off over the Thames River in London and over Sydney Harbour in Australia. And all over the world, people celebrate in different ways, often with traditions believed to bring luck, financial fortune, love, and happiness.
We’ve rounded up a few ways the world celebrates the New Year — try some of them out to see if they bring you luck in 2016.
New Year’s Eve in Belgium is known as Sint Sylvester Vooranvond, or Saint Sylvester’s Eve. It’s customary to toast with Champagne, kiss, and exchange good tidings. Belgian children craft letters to their parents or godparents complete with decorations like angels and roses and read them aloud on the morning of New Year’s Day.
Travel opens the mind and expands the worldview, so it’s no wonder many Colombians want to ensure the most travel possible in the coming year. Tradition says to run around the block with empty suitcases, but maybe participants should train for it first. The faster they run, the more they’ll supposedly travel.
On New Year’s Day in Denmark, hearing banging and crashing outside one’s home isn’t cause for fear — it’s just proof the resident has a lot of friends. Tradition holds that the amount of broken glasses and plates outside a person’s door is directly related to the amount of luck and friendship he or she will enjoy in the coming year. Besides broken dishes, another Danish tradition is baking a New Year’s treat called kransekage, a ring-shaped cake with steep sides.
Tradition in Estonia suggests eating 12 different meals on New Year’s Eve to have the strength of 12 men in the year ahead. People don’t finish the meals, however. Parts are left out for the hungry spirits of ancestors that may visit on the night before the New Year.
The start to Finland’s New Year for many people includes molybdomancy, or divination with molten metal. Tin or lead is melted on the stove and then put into a bucket of cold water. The resulting shape is analyzed to determine what the New Year will hold for that person.
Check out more New Year's Eve traditions from around the world.
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