Ring Out the Old, Ring in the Weird


piper_heidsieckWhile many Americans will ring in the new year with a toast and kiss, people from other countries will celebrate a tad differently. Some will throw dishes and others will don loud undies. Here’s ten odd New Year’s traditions from around the world, including one from the good ol’ U.S. of A. (including a great recipe).


If you live in Denmark and find a heap of shattered dishes on your porch on New Year’s Day, jump for joy. It means you have lots of friends, who show their love by hurling dishes at your door. Speaking of jumping, Danes also leap off chairs at midnight. Why? To symbolize jumping into a fresh year, of course. Duh.


Finnish folk melt tin or lead on New Year’s Eve and toss the molten metal into a bucket of cold water. Once it hardens, they fish it out and try to interpret the shape. The form of a horse or ship means future travel; a ring signifies an upcoming wedding; a star signals good fortune. I would like mine to come out in the shape of a dollar sign, please.


Spaniards wolf down twelve grapes with each stroke of the midnight clock on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents a month of good luck.


When darkness falls on December 31, Panamanians ignite bonfires and toss in muñecos–effigies of celebrities and politicians. Usually these figures represent the shameful and scandalous. Throwing them in the roaring flames is a way of saying “adios” to the worst of the old year.


In Greece, the New Year is observed with the custom of Pothariko, or First Footing. The first person to cross the threshold at midnight should be a good person in order to usher in blessings. Typically children are chosen because of the joy and innocence they represent. In some parts of the country, the First Footer breaks a pomegranate against the door, scattering the seeds for good luck.


pantiesHave you ever felt like, “Oh, the heck with it; I’m going to ring in the new year in my underwear”? Then you might have a little Brazilian in you. A lot of folks in this and other South American countries sport colored skivvies in the first hours of January. Yellow supposedly brings in wealth and prosperity, while red signifies love. If you follow this tradition, just remember what your mother said about travel and clean underwear.


In the Filipino New Year, round is the word. Women wear polka-dot dresses, folks walk around with coins in their pockets and  households stock up on round foods, such as oranges and grapes. The shape of a circle is said to reap wealth.


In a certain section of downtown Johannesburg, residents heave old appliances and furniture from their windows on New Year’s Day. Passers-by have routinely been injured by stoves and chairs falling from the sky. Police Inspector Kriben Naidoo has called the practice something of a bad “New Year’s institution.” Perhaps Inspector Naidoo could make a New Year’s resolution to stop using understatement.


In the village of Stonehaven in northeast Scotland, people celebrate on New Year’s Eve with a fireball festival. Spectators line up on the street to watch locals swing circular cages of fire over their heads. Fireballers concoct their own recipe of combustible material and, once the fiery parade is over, they toss the cages into the sea. I guess you could call them “flamethrowers.”


On January 1 in many Southern kitchens in the U.S., you can find black-eyed peas on the table. There are many explanations on the origin of eating black-eye peas on New Year’s Day for luck. One thing is for certain: nothing beats a steaming pot of black-eye pea soup on just about any day of the year (check out my pea soup recipe below).

I love black-eyed peas, but I don’t believe that consuming them is a guarantee of good luck. But I do believe it’s a good idea to start the new year with God. Set aside time every day to commune with Him. Try the One Year Bible plan or find a good devotional book. I plan to follow Robert J. Morgan’s Near to the Heart of God, which contains 366 of the best-loved hymns of all time. I picked it up through BookBub for only 99 cents.

Happy New Year. Watch out for fireballs and flying furniture!


  • 1 1-lb bag black-eyed peas
  • 1 1-lb package beef smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 can Ro-Tel, mild or hot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Seasonings such as salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, thyme, etc, to taste


DIRECTIONS: Cook peas according to package instructions. Drain. In the meantime, cook sausage in a hot skillet and add the veggies, pouring in a little oil if needed. Sauté until tender. To the cooked peas, add chicken broth, Ro-tel and sausage/veggie mix. Add seasonings and simmer for about an hour; add water if needed. Remove bay leaf before serving. You may also add a cup of cooked rice to the soup to make it “Hoppin’ John.”

Champagne and gift picture courtesy of verbaska via morguefile.com

Red underwear picture courtesy of xenia via morguefile.com



  1. Reply
    Laura Winter says

    It’s a good thing we finally got our dishwasher fixed this year or I might have made like a South African and heaved it out a window. Instead, I’ll just enjoy a nice and scrumptious bowl of Mark’s black-eyed pea soup. Yum!

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