10 Unique Christmas and New Year’s Traditions Around the World

new years traditions around the world. Fireworks behind big ben in London

PC Chris Chabot

Growing up in Hawaii, a melting pot of very different cultures, we had some unique holiday traditions.

Due to the plantation days when many workers were brought in internationally, everyone’s families and traditions became very mixed. Therefore, for New Years, we ate Portuguese bean soup and popped all the Chinese fireworks we could find.

I remember not being able to see down my street due to the thick red smoke that erupted from our neighbors’ rolls of firecrackers. These traditions were such a big part of our lives and we all assumed the traditions existed in Portugal and China too.

To my surprise, I traveled to Portugal as an adult and learned that Portuguese Bean Soup for New Year’s was NOT a thing! Although they ate bean soup on a regular basis, it holds no connection to New Years.

So, I wondered, what other traditions do they have? And beyond that, what kind of traditions do we all celebrate around the world that we think are normal but might in fact just be really weird?!

Here are ten unique holiday traditions that may be normal for some but very strange to others:

Spain – New Year’s

Grapes on a vine

PC Daniel Lin

As the clock strikes midnight, you must eat a grape every time the clock chimes.  If you aren’t able to put 12 grapes in your mouth as fast as the clock strikes, you will risk bad luck in the new year!


Denmark – New Year’s

Hand painted with a log cabin

PC Alan Moyes

In Denmark people get loud by throwing plates they’ve been saving up all year and breaking them on friends’ and family’s doors.


Ecuador – New Year’s

A small scarecrow in Ecuador

PC Bart Heird

In Ecuador they build scarecrows out of paper and then light them on fire, along with old photographs, to bring luck to the new year.


Canada – Christmas

Childs letter to santa

PC Protoflux

Santa has his own postal code in Canada: H0H 0H0 (pronounced ho ho ho??

Now all the letters to Santa that children stick in the mail can actually be “delivered”!


Austria/Germany/Hungary – Christmas


PC Dex

In the alpine region of Central Europe, they believe not just in Santa Claus but also in Krampus! He is a hairy, devilish beast who kidnaps naughty children and delivers them to hell as punishment. More incentive to be nice this year!


Louisiana – New Year’s

City block in New Orleans

PC Pedro Szekely

Louisiana loves food, and for good reason! Their creole cooking uses some delicious spices, especially for the holidays. What better way to ensure health and wealth in the New Year then Cajun style black eyed peas and cabbage?!


Estonia – New Year’s

Family dinner over candlelight in Estonia

PC Falashad

In Estonia your fate for the upcoming year is determined by how much you can eat! The holiday is celebrated with a lucky number of meals, between 7 – 12. However many times you can return to the table for a meal, you will have that much strength in men (or women)!


India – Christmas

Christmas tree made out of plantains in a grocery store in India

PC Etienne Girardet

Although a small percentage of India is Christian, there are still over 25 million of them celebrating Christmas! Instead of decorating pine trees, they use banana and mango trees!


Japan – Christmas

KFC in Japan sign

PC Chris Kladis

KFC is huge in Japan around Christmastime. Strange, right? There’s a logical reason. It’s true there are very few Christians in Japan (1.5% of the population), but the Christians that are living there have turned to chicken for their Christmas dinner.

The reason? KFC’s decades-long marketing campaign, spurred by the simple economic principle of supply and demand. Turkey is nearly impossible to find in Japan. Thus, for nearly 50 years, Christians in Japan (there were about 55,000 Americans living in Japan in 2017*) have been substituting chicken in lieu of a turkey Christmas dinner.

Now, KFC is as synonymous with Christmas in Japan, with Christians and non-Christians alike eating it on December 25. Bonus? Colonel Sanders statues are dressed like Santa in what is truly a marketer’s dream come true.

*National Institute of Population and Social Security Research

Brazil – New Year

Brazilian model in white underwear holding plantains

PC Enrique Lin

Want good luck in your new year? You better buy some new white underwear! In Brazil, white underwear symbolizes a pure and fresh start to the new year. They aren’t the only ones who associate underwear with a great New Year, Italy takes red underwear for the holiday very seriously, as do Chileans. Colombians can be seen sporting any bright colored underwear on the holiday!

How do you celebrate where you live? Let us know in the comments below!


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