New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World

Although marking a new year essentially represents the same thing in all parts of the world, each region has their own unique way of celebrating with their own enthusiasm and hopefulness for the year ahead. Different parts of the world have differing customs and traditions, but positivity and well wishes are encouraged no matter how you celebrate. While we celebrate when the clock strikes midnight and switches from December 31 to January 1 here in the U.S., other parts of the world celebrate the new year during different times of the year and for varying lengths of time. Below is just a taste of other traditions, each with varying customs, but shared goals of optimism and prosperity.


New Year celebrations in France are referred to as Reveillon, and the New Year is called Jour des trennes or le Jour de I’An. Party-goers partake in similar traditions as we do in the U.S., during which they pop champagne and gather with loved ones. In addition, the French plan a feast known as le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, when they eat cake called la galette des rois after eating traditional dishes like pancakes and foie gras.

Experience France on our Normandy and the D-Day Beaches river cruise


The Chinese New Year is celebrated anywhere from mid-January to mid-February, and can last as long as 15 days. It’s referred to as Yuan Tan, and includes such traditions as gifting Lai See to friends and family, which are red envelopes containing money for good luck. The Chinese New Year is also referred to as Spring Festival.

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South America

New Year’s in South America is marked with a large fireworks show in the city of Valparaíso. Large crowds are drawn to watch the display over the harbor and people arrive early to secure a good viewing spot. It’s such a popular New Year’s Eve attraction in South America that around one million people flock to the city of Valparaíso to mark the new year.

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Cuban New Year’s traditions are vibrant and unique, featuring the following customs:

  • Eat 12 grapes at midnight while making a wish for each one. Each represent the 12 months of the year
  • Follow up eating the grapes with a sip of sidra, or cider, which should be consumed within the first minute of the new year
  • Throw a bucket of dirty water outside, which represents getting rid of any bad luck from the past year
  • Put cash in the mailbox to attract success for the new year ahead
  • If travel is desired, walk around the block with a suitcase
  • Kiss your loved ones and dance the night away

Experience Cuba on our Cuba: The People & Culture land tour


New Year’s in Botswana, Africa, which is a stop on our Best of Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana & Namibia journey, is celebrated by making lots of noise by using instruments like pots and pans or whistles. Family, music and dancing is prevalent in these New Year’s celebrations as well.

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New Year’s celebrations in Australia are usually celebrated from January 1 to January 6. The official mark of the new year is determined by 12 church bell rings at midnight of the new year. Celebrations commence with cheering and instruments, followed by kissing and embracing loved ones.

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The Persian New Year in Iran known as Nowruz, which translates to “New Day” in Farsi, also marks the first day of spring. Spring cleaning begins weeks before Nowruz in preparation for it, which is refered to as khoneh takooni, or “shaking the house.” Other Persian New Year’s traditions Iranians celebrate are jumping over the fire to symbolize good health for the upcoming year (Chahar Shanbeh Soori), and setting a table with seven symbolic items that all start with the letter S.

Experience Iran on our Splendors of Persia: Art & Culture in Iran land tour