New Year’s Traditions around the World

By Maggie Sans
December 30, 2014
Four fireworks exploding at dusk with people looking up

I love the holidays – being surrounded by family and friends and soaking up the traditions we practice year after year. It’s these traditions that help make this time of year feel nostalgic and special. Whether watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve, lighting a Yule log for the winter solstice or having black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck, holidays are celebrated in unique and meaningful ways. I have the privilege of working with the 26 countries outside the United States where Walmart serves customers, and the customs in those countries are as unique and varied as the products we carry and the languages we speak.

In Latin America, many countries eat grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve; people in Argentina and Mexico eat exactly 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock’s bell on the countdown to midnight, to usher in a year of prosperity. In South Africa, church bells ring at midnight to officially welcome in the New Year and festive fireworks accompany cheers and greetings. In China, Chinese New Year dinner is the most important meal of the year with hot pot meals, along with local foods and wine.

But, traditions aren’t only about what you eat—they’re also what you wear! One tradition that I think is quite fun is the practice in Argentina, Brazil and Chile of buying new colorful underwear to wear on New Year’s Eve to usher in good luck, money and peace. Chileans believe the underwear should be yellow, while Argentinians wear the color pink for peace. Brazilians wear white through New Year’s Eve to usher in a year of peace. In some provinces of South Africa, carnivals take place with colorful costumes and dancing in the street.

It wouldn’t be unusual in Chile to see people at midnight on New Year’s Eve walking around the block carrying empty suitcases, hoping it will bring them travel in the New Year. In Japan, you will see Fortune or Lucky bags purchased for oneself or being given away to family and friends, filled with surprise “mystery” items to bring luck for the year.

No matter where you celebrate the holidays or how you spend your time, I hope your holiday season is filled with friendship, family, peace and, of course, luck!