Scarecrows, Skivvies, & Cemetery Sleepovers: 5 Weirdly Wonderful New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

Growing up in Texas meant that, every year, on New Year’s Day, I ate black-eyed peas and cabbage with at least one meal. According to local lore, the peas bring good luck, and the cabbage brings prosperity or wealth in the new year. Not being one to temp fate, I always eat my peas and cabbage. Oh, who am I kidding, I love peas and cabbage, and I eat them all year. So far, I can’t tell they’ve made all that much difference, but DAMN they sure are good!!

As I sat down to dinner last night, black-eyed peas and cole slaw heavily heaped on my plate, I began to wonder what traditions other folks around the world partake of on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I gotta tell ya, there are some pretty wild things going on, and I’ve assembled just a few of them for you here. Without further ado:

5 Weirdly Wonderful New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

1. Ecuador — the “viejos”

Is there someone you just really don’t like? Someone who has committed some unpardonable sin? Well, then New Year’s Eve in Ecuador is the place for you! Join the Ecuadorians for their annual lighting of “los anos viejos” (the old years)–large dolls made to look like people they dislike, or who have been otherwise dubious in their dealings. They stuff the dolls with old clothes, paper, or anything else that easily catches fire. Then, as they ring in the new year…you guessed it…LIGHT ‘EM UP! Now, it’s not all about the hate, though. Some “viejos” are just for fun. Check out more info on the “viejos” and other Ecuadorian traditions at

2. Latin America — colored underwear

In several South American countries, some folks believe that the color of the underwear you’re wearing as the…ehh hemm, ball drops (sorry, I couldn’t resist)…foretells your fortune in the new year. For instance, red underwear brings luck in love; yellow or gold: prosperity; white: peach and happiness. But, beware if you like your skivvies black, for you’ll surely have bad luck all year long! As of press time, my research had not yielded any results for information on ringing in the new year commando!

3. Switzerland — dropping ice cream on the floor

I trust the good people of Switzerland will forgive me if I don’t join in their near-blasphemous tradition of dropping ice cream on the floor to ensure prosperity and abundance in the new year. You read that right! The Swiss, a notoriously clean and sensible people, purposely drop ice cream on the floor on New Year’s Eve. Growing up in my grandmother’s house, that tradition would’ve surely mean a year of mopping for me!

4. Belgium — wishing cows good luck

The Belgians consider celebrating the coming of a new year quite an important occasion. New Year’s Eve, or Sint Sylvester Vooranvand (St. Sylvester’s Eve) is a time of reverence to their Holy Saint. They have BIG PARTIES, and wish happiness to everyone…including their cows! Farmers wish their cattle good luck in the new year–this would, naturally, ensure a little good luck for the farmer, too!

5. Chile — cemetery slumber parties

One of the newest New Year’s Traditions happens in Chile, where family members spend New Year’s Eve in cemeteries where their loved ones are buried. According to, this tradition started about 15 years ago when a family, desperately missing their recently deceased father, jumped a cemetery fence on New Year’s Eve, hoping to spend one last holiday with him. Now, many families do the same thing, hoping for peace in the new year. Creepy…but kinda sweet!

And 2 Bonus Traditions That I Can Really Get Behind

France — pancakes for the New Year

Remember ole St. Sylvester in Belgium? Well, it seems the French have a special place in their hearts for him, too. On New Year’s Eve, the French hold a feast called le Reveillon de Saint-Sylvester (literally: the Eve of St. Sylvester). At the feast they serve all manner of foods believed to bring prosperity and good luck, one of which is pancakes. Who knew that pancakes had such power? I think I’ll give this one a try for sure!

Postscript: they also serve foie gras (flavored duck or goose)…I think I’ll take a hard pass on that one!

Estonia — 12 meals on New Year’s Day

After reading about this tradition, I’m pretty sure my Ancestry DNA kit will return strong Estonian roots! If you love to eat as much as I do, then let me know, and let’s head to Estonia to ring in 2019! The Estonians believe that the best way to insure strength in the new year is to eat….A LOT! Some folks eat up to 12 meals on New Year’s Day. But, don’t eat every last bite. Leave a little something on your plate so that the spirits of your ancestors are happy–I say they can get their own, but what do I know?

Wherever you are this year, and however you celebrated (or, are celebrating), I wish you the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous 2018!!


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