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Unconventional ways to ring in 2019

With Thanksgiving already a distant speck in the rearview mirror and Christmas fast approaching, many have begun making New Year’s plans. For millions of Americans, the long-standing tradition of watching the crystal ball drop at Times Square in New York City still holds. However, other countries have their own traditions to ring in the new year.

Coins baked into food

Eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve, in time with the chimes of the clock, started as a tradition in Spain as a way to bring about a prosperous new year. (Photo courtesy of Chris Oakley)

In Bolivia, coins are baked into pastries such as cakes and pies. Whoever finds them is believed to receive good luck and blessings in the upcoming year. Sometimes, charms are also baked in to symbolize things that can be expected in the new year. (Chew carefully!)


In Colombia, folks carry suitcases with them for the duration of New Year’s Day in hopes of having a year full of travel. Ideally, starting the year carrying a suitcase will create a pattern of using one in the coming months.


Night at the Graveyard

In Chile, people spend New Year’s in the company of their deceased loved ones by sleeping at the cemetery. This is a way of honoring those who have passed, and of ensuring their souls are not forgotten during the holidays.


Frozen Tree Trunks

In Siberia, people carry tree trunks on their backs and jump into frozen lakes to ring in the new year. They then swim to the lake’s bottom and do “underwater tree planting.” (Only professional divers are given this task.)

Out With the Old, in With the New

In South Africa, it’s traditional for people to throw all outdated furniture out the window as a way of signifying the beginning of something new. However, this tradition does create quite a mess.

Twelve Grapes

In Mexico, people have adopted a Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape represents one month of the coming new year. The idea is to make one wish for each month.  Some people believe eating the grapes will bring them happiness, prosperity, peace and good health.

As the new year approaches, it can be eye-opening and rather refreshing to see how other people around the world choose to celebrate. Perhaps it would benefit us all this holiday season to observe more traditions rooted in optimism about the new year.

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