10 Interesting New Year’s Traditions from Around the World
In Japan, the combination of faith, family, and food makes the New Year’s celebration memorable. The new year begins with every Buddhist temple in the country ringing their bells 108 times, a number which represents the desires that lead to pain and suffering. Ringing the bells seeks to drive out this pain and pave the way for a happy new year.
Many people visit Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines on New Year’s Day, in order to give thanks for the previous year and pray for fortune. After the temple and shrine visits, families head home to enjoy an elaborate meal called o-sechi ryori, which is composed of a number of different symbolic ingredients. For dessert, nothing but mochi (glutinous rice candies) will do.
One of the most popular traditions for a Bolivian New Year’s celebration is something that the average person would never be able to see. Like many other Latin Americans, Bolivians believe that the color of their undergarments represents their desires for the upcoming year. Red signifies luck in love, while yellow represents wealth and prosperity. Some people wear their underwear backwards until the stroke of midnight, then switch them back around to represent their first step into the new year.
Another popular tradition involves carrying luggage on New Year’s Day, which is thought to help make the dream of travel a reality.
Like China, Israel celebrates two different New Year’s — the Gregorian calendar new year and the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year that takes place in the fall.
On Rosh Hashana, families go to synagogue and listen to the blowing of a ram’s horn, or shofar. Listening to the shofar is considered a religious commandment, so if people can’t go to the synagogue, there are organizations that bring the shofar to their home. Candles are lit, and blessings for the new year are recited by the woman of the house. A festive meal always includes apples dipped in honey (for a sweet new year), a round challah bread loaf, and either the head of a fish or a ram, which signifies the desire to be a leader and not a follower.