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  • Writer's pictureMaría Palomares Tarí


Happy (almost) New Year from YOKO! As this year draws to a close for many of us — note that while most of the world celebrates New Year's Day on January 1, there are many cultures that recognize the start of a new year on different dates — we’ve decided to bring together different celebrations from all around the globe designed to bring luck and instill hope, prosperity and optimism in the year ahead. A little bit of that wouldn’t go amiss these times, right?

Worldwide, cultures welcome the change of calendar with unique New Year’s customs, which have been passed down from generation to generation in all types of forms. From special New Year’s dishes to superstitious traditions of all types when the clock strikes midnight, each country draws upon specific elements that are inherent to their culture. And some of them are just worth it, let’s say it!


When clocks strike midnight on New Year’s Eve in Spain (and also some parts of Latin America), rare is the Spaniard who dares skipping eating the well-known 12 lucky grapes as the bells chime — one for each of the twelve chimes. Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. The chiming of the clock is broadcast on TV all over Spain. In many towns, villages or bigger cities, people gather in main squares stuffing their 12 grapes in their mouths whilst downing their glasses (maybe bottles) of bubbly! With a little adrenaline rush, and most likely some laughs — because it is no easy task, I can tell you — Spaniards get the year off to a good start!


Dating back to pre-Christian times and taking place every winter in villages and cities in Romania's eastern region of Moldova — between Christmas and New Year's Eve — the Dance of the Bear symbolizes the death and rebirth of time. Known for its bear dancers, groups process through the streets in bear costumes, often made from real animal furs, some as much as 50 years old. This ancient ritual brings together the whole community, who gather to watch the performance. In the central act of the Bear Dance ritual, the bears die and then are resurrected, so as to symbolize renewal, the end of the new year and the beginning of the new one.


Colombian locals might be spotted carrying a suitcase around with them as they run errands on the 31 December. To make sure the next year is made up of 12 months of travel and adventure, they grab your suitcase at midnight and pull it around the block— so great after all we’ve been through lately! And their route must be a full lap of the street. Apart from that, one of the oldest New Year Eve’s traditions is to fill the main dining table in the house with wheat —12 shafts of wheat ideally—, in the hope of ensuring that the following year is fruitful, with plenty to eat.


Since ancient times, households across Scotland have welcomed strangers through their doors to bring good fortune for the year ahead. This is known as ‘first-footing’, and during Scotland’s New Year’s Eve, ‘first-footing’ (from the Gaelic practice of “qualtagh”) is practiced across the country. So, basically, the first person who crosses a threshold of a home in the New Year should carry a gift for luck… and it should be someone who was not already in the house when midnight struck. However, tradition has it that only a dark-haired man brings good luck as a first footer. How selective!

Can you think of any amazing New Year’s tradition from your culture? Tell us about it!


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