Ring in the New Year with these fun traditions from all around the world, and have fun trying them at home with your children!
Sure, midnight might be a little past your children’s bedtime, especially for the younger ones, but you can tweak your New Year celebrations to fit into your schedule. Why not hold a mock New Year’s Eve celebration at 7 or 8 pm, or even on New Year’s day? That will give you plenty of time to try out these worldly traditions! Your little ones will love learning about how children from different cultures celebrate the New Year.
You could also head to the library beforehand to find some books about the New Year to read up on the history of New Year’s Day, and to learn more about how it has been celebrated throughout the times all over the world. The book Happy New Year! by Emery Bernhard is a great one for children, as it goes into the ways different cultures celebrate, and even when they celebrate since some people around the world celebrate New Years at different times! The book even discuses why Julius changed the beginning of the new year to January 1st instead of March, which was originally the first month of the year, how interesting is that!
Read about the New Year’s traditions of these 8 different cultures and try out the kid-friendly ideas for each one!
1.) A Spanish New Year!
In Spain, everyone grabs a skewer of 12 grapes just before midnight. Each grape is eaten consecutively, one after the other, on the 12 strokes of the midnight clock. If you manage all 12 you will have a lucky year.
At home: Take out a map and find Spain in relation to your own home! Instead of racing to eat the grapes, tell everyone to think up their greatest New Years resolution while they are eating them, and after the 12th grape is eaten, they have to share their resolution with the family! And since grapes are a choking hazard, be sure to cut them into quarters or halves for smaller children.
2.) Italian bright red knickers!
Every Italian from the north to the south of the Boot will be sure to wear red underwear on New Years Eve to ensure that their upcoming year will be filled with good luck! Brazilians follow a similar tradition, but instead of just sticking to red, they swear any brightly colored underwear will do!
At home: Have your little ones find Italy on the map. Take a leaf out of Italy’s book and join in on the tradition by reminding your children to put on their brightest, most fun underwear while they get dressed on the morning of the new year to make sure their year is filled with as much good luck as possible!
3.) Hungarian noise makers!
Hungarians know how to keep their New Year full of good fortune by scaring away all of the evil spirits on New Year’s Eve. In an effort to scare away evil spirits, people make as much noise as they can using kazoos and paper horns to keep any negative energy away in the coming year! People also wear silly hats and masks to confuse evil spirits and to send them back to a dormant state.
At home: Have a craft session on New Years eve with your kids and make kazoos, paper horns and fun masks to follow along on this Hungarian tradition! All of these things can usually be made with materials already lying around the house. A simple kazoo can be made by attaching a piece of tissue paper over the end of an empty toilet paper roll with a rubber band, and then punching a hole in the center of the tissue paper. Blow into the hole and let the “do, do, do!” sounds commence! Have fun making noise to ring in the new year!
4.) Scotland first footer tradition!
An age old Scottish New Year’s Day tradition involves having members of the family (called the footers) enter the house carrying ‘gifts’ which symbolically bring good fortune into the New Year.
At home: Have your kids participate in this tradition by first assigning them different traditional ‘gifts’, then going outside, closing the door, and having them knock or ring the bell to get back inside. Once they re-enter with the gifts, then the house and family are blessed with the thing that each item represents! Some of the traditional gifts include: bread— represents abundance, a coin— represents financial prosperity, salt— represents flavor, a cup of tea— represents good cheer!
5.) German Marzipan goodluck pigs!
This old German tradition believes that gifting these adorable little pigs to loved ones on the New Year will bring them good luck. So spend your New Years day getting crafty in the kitchen with these yummy marzipan pigs! Your children will have so much fun making them.
At home: To make the Marzipan Pigs you’ll simply need a block of marzipan and some food coloring, plus some tooth picks for modeling. Color the marzipan pink using a few drops of red food coloring, and then knead the marzipan thoroughly to make it moldable. Make an oblong ball for the body, 4 little balls for the stumpy feet, a disc for the nose, 2 triangles for ears and a curly piece for the tail, and then have your children put them all into place. The pigs should be very miniature, about the size of a young child’s fist. If the pieces fall off while you’re putting them into place, a little water should help them stay attached.
Have your children gift them to their friends, or other family members to wish them good luck for the new year in the German way!
6.) Brazilian pomegranate seeds
There are all kinds of Brazilian superstitions surrounding New Years Eve. Some Brazilians believe that if they want to ensure a new year filled with financial prosperity then they must eat rice and lentils just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Others go to the ocean at midnight to jump over 3 waves to bring good luck. Lighting sparklers and fireworks are also a popular activity that night. Perhaps the biggest superstition of all is the belief that wearing black on New Year’s eve is a big no-no, and represents a bad omen for year to come, brightly colored clothes are a must!
At home: Top it all off with a Brazilian New Year’s tradition that you can try at home with your children, eat 8 pomegranate seeds for good luck, one at a time. Each pomegranate seed represents one wish (which shouldn’t be shared out loud!) for the new year, upon swallowing the seed, each wish begins manifesting!
7.) Poland has a variety of traditions!
Polish people firmly believe that it’s important to remember NOT to sweep the house on New Year’s eve, as you might sweep out all of the good luck! Also, it’s important on New Year’s day to have a full pantry of fruit, bread, and chocolate— as it will promise prosperity for the new year.
At home: Two family friendly New Year’s traditions that you can try at home with your children are making preserves, jams or jellies which are canned and saved to be eaten throughout the year. And, on New Year’s eve, a big tradition is to “burn your worries,” i.e., worries or bad habits which would like to be released should be written down on strips of paper and then burned one by one over a candle— obviously this part needs to be done by an adult, as it can be dangerous, but can be done as a family while the children write down their fears and watch them get burned, they’ll have newfound confidence to face their fears!
8.) Japanese rice paper affirmations!
In Japan, it is custom to gather with all loved ones, family and friends, and have a homemade potluck dinner and then to sing karaoke together. It is very popular to indulge on lots and lots of Mochi on this day, which are delicious traditional Japanese rice cakes! Perhaps you can try to find them at your local supermarket in the International foods section.
At home: Locate Japan on the map with your children, and then write down your hopes and wishes for the New Year on little squares of rice paper, hanging them all around your house to bring good luck! Also, try some Mochi, and have a karaoke party!