8 of the weirdest New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world

Brits might celebrate with a bottle of bubbly and Auld Lang Syne, but that’s nothing compared to some of these more bizarre New Year customs.

Last updated: 15 May 2018 - 12.51pm

On New Year’s Eve, most of us Brits look forward to popping some bubbly, watching the fireworks and embracing a loved one at midnight.

But elsewhere, our celebrations pale in comparison. Faced with Danish plate smashers, Peruvian fist-fighters and Belarusian bachelorettes, you’ll be glad the most you’re subjected to is a drunken rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

Here are some of the world’s most weird and wonderful ways to see in New Year…

1. Takanakuy Festival in the Peruvian Andes

Bearing a grudge takes on a whole new meaning in the Peruvian Andean province Chumbivilcas. Following a pre-Incan tradition, men and women dress up in warrior masks and leather chaps to deal each other blows in the village square. In a state with a limited justice system, the idea is to store up your grievances and fight them out before the year ahead.

2. Dropping ice cream in Switzerland

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the land of watches, banks and cuckoo clocks spawned a rather sensible breed of people. But in Switzerland, dropping a dollop of ice cream on the floor is said to bring overflowing abundance in the New Year. Are the good people at Mövenpick behind this idea?

3. Smashing plates in Denmark

Most of us send our friends a Christmas card to show our affections, but in Denmark your popularity can be measured by the number of smashed plates at your door on New Year’s Day. Fiery Danes save their chipped crockery all year to lob at friends’ doors in a show of loyalty. Let’s just hope they don’t mind getting handy with a dustpan and brush.

4. Pickle drop in Mount Olive, North Carolina

Inspired by the time balls used by ship navigators in the 19th century to check their chronometers’ accuracy, a crystal ball is lowered on a pole every year at midnight in New York’s Times Square. The tradition has taken on varying forms around the country and in Mount Olive, North Carolina; a glowing three-foot pickle is dropped on a flagpole to celebrate the town’s thriving pickle industry. And why not?!

5. Female games in Belarus

All the single ladies, all the single ladies; now put a pile of corn in front of you and see who the rooster picks. Not quite the Beyoncé refrain? In Belarus the New Year is all about seeing who will be next to wed. A series of traditional games indicate the lucky bachelorette – if the cockerel approaches your corn first, it’s time to get ready for Mr Right.

6. Drinking your wish in Russia

New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Russia – when religious holidays like Christmas were banned under 20th century Communism, it was the season’s only celebration. Today, Russians write their New Year’s wish on a scrap of paper, set it alight and drop it into their glass of champagne, before downing the lot by 12:01am. Great if you like your Dom Perignon seasoned with smouldering remains of paper.

7. Grape munching in Spain

In 1909, an unexpectedly large grape harvest left a surplus for farmers in Alicante. Their solution? Tell everyone to swallow a grape on each of the 12 clock chimes to midnight. This stroke of genius became a national tradition that has spread to Portugal and Mexico, symbolising 12 lucky months ahead.

8. Making a racket in New Zealand

As the first big country to welcome in the New Year, perhaps the Kiwis feel they need to make sure everyone hears them, so tradition sees people stand on the porch bashing their pots and pans to drive away evil spirits. Just don’t use that nice new Le Creuset you were given at Christmas.

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