• Posted:Friday, October 24, 2014
  • Comments: 1

5 Awesomely Weird New Year's Eve Traditions You Hadn't Heard Of

5 Awesomely Weird New Year's Eve Traditions You Hadn't Heard Of

Because New Year's Eve doesn't necessarily have to involve over-priced booze, extortionate ticket prices, rubbish clubs or disappointing fireworks.


Madrid, New Year

The Spanish know how to party, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Before the real party begins (post-midnight), the Spanish engage in an important tradition. With every strike of the clock at midnight, you must gobble a grape to bring luck in the New Year. Twelve strikes means twelve grapes which all must go down right before the last chime. While it sounds easy, it’s actually quite the task. In an effort to make sure it’s a good year, some sneakily cheat and buy smaller grapes or even non-traditional seedless ones.

The most popular place to gather for the grape gobbling is Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. With bottles of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) passed around, the population waits for midnight to strike on the old clock at the Real Casa de Correos (old post office). What’s even more bizarre is that this celebration happens two nights in a row. Since many people have a meal with their families at midnight on New Year’s Eve, there is a practice round held in the plaza the night before. Some think it’s just another excuse to party, but you have to make sure the clock works for the big night, right?

South Africa

South Africa, New Year

You wouldn’t want to be walking around under any tall buildings in Johannesburg come the end of December. The residents of the downtown neighborhood of Hillbrow throw old appliances out of windows and off the top of high rises to ring in the New Year!

Residents start stock piling appliances a few weeks in advance. Come December 31st you may see microwaves, TVs, mattresses and even fridges flying to the ground. Due to the dangerous nature, police have been trying hard to crack down on appliance chuckers. Helicopters patrol the skies looking for stockpiled goods and medical teams make preparations for any accidents. Maybe this is a celebration worth missing!


Belarus, New Years

New Year’s in Belarus is quite the ordeal, full of exuberant multiple course meals and bottles of champagne. Many Russians even make the trip over to Belarus to take advantage of the lower prices, better quality food and friendly people.

Along with the normal celebrations, the single women of Belarus partake in an interesting fortune telling technique. To predict who will marry in the upcoming year, corn is set before each of the ladies. A rooster is then let loose to do the choosing. Whichever pile it feeds on first tells who will be the first to wed!

Takanakuy Festival in Peru

Peru, New Year

In a small village in the remote stretches of the Peruvian Andes, the indigenous population has a unique way to settle disputes during the last week of the year. During Takanakuy, which is held on Christmas Day, the local population can engage in fist fights with a person of their choice. In a type of “one day law court”, all disputes are supposed to be settled by the end, allowing for the population to move forward grudge free come the New Year.

Of course, feasting, alcohol, dancing and costumes are also involved making this a truly unique celebration.


Panama, New Year

Unlike at Takanakuy, the people in Panama and Ecuador beat up stuffed dolls instead of each other. These stuffed dolls, called effigies or “muñecos”, are supposed to resemble to famous politicians or celebrities from the outgoing year. At midnight, they are beaten and lit up. Firecrackers are usually crammed inside making explosive bonfires.

Burning these effigies is said to bring good fortune in the New Year. They are also supposed to ward off bad spirits, as firecrackers tend to be a sure-fire way to scare them off.

Know any other weird New Year's traditions? Tell us about them in the comments...

Jessica Wray is a Californian, an over-thinker, a spicy-food lover and a serial expat. She has studied and lived in Latin America, taught English in South Korea, backpacked Asia and now lives in Madrid, Spain. Follow along with her on her blog, Curiosity Travels, as she tackles her mid-twenties all while calling different parts of the world home.

Thanks to jacinta lluch valero, C.G. Megee, Alessandra Cimatti, anoldent and David Arpi for the excellent images from flickr. Please note all were under Creative Commons license at time of publishing.

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  • Posted: Monday, November 24, 2014
If real,the grape gobbling tradition in Spain is as futile (if not stupid) and potentially dangerous as the "custom" of throwing appliances out of the window in South Africa. Both are "celebrations" worth missing.
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