Out with the old and in with the new. The new year that is. Today is the first day of 2012. The first day of a brand new year. And for a lot of us that means shaking off the cobwebs of 2011 and starting anew. In the U.S., it's a day to finalize those New Year's resolutions (and hopefully come up with a plan for keeping them!), and for eating Hoppin' John (at least in the South) whereas in the rest of the world, other traditions are followed.
Here's a look at some of the most interesting ways that folks celebrate the New Year around the globe:
The Netherlands: The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees on the street on New Year's Eve as a way to purge the old and welcome the new.
Scotland: I was fortunate enough to be living in Scotland a few years ago where I experienced first-hand the event that is Hogmanay. This amazing celebration typically involves midnight parades, games, food, and more goodwill than you can generally pack into a town square. Another Scottish New Year's traditions is "first-footing," where neighbors visit each other shortly after midnight to impart New Year's wishes.
Spain: The Spanish ritual on New Year's eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. The tradition is meant to bring twelve months of luck and happiness in the coming year.
Japan: Japanese tradition calls for a full week of preparations in advance of New Year's Day, or Oshogatsu. The house must be thoroughly cleaned, all debts must be paid, and all disagreements must be resolved and forgiven. Before midnight, 108 bells ring, to symbolize the elimination of 108 troubles. Thus, the Japanese start the year with a clean house, and no troubles, debts, or disagreements to contend with. The day after New Year’s is First Writing Day, when the Japanese write out their hopes and dreams for the new year.
Greece: In Greece, New Year's day is also the Festival of St. Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church. The celebrations include Vasilopitta, or St Basil's cake which is an almond cake with a silver or gold coin baked inside. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will have extra good luck in the coming year.
Philippines: Food, family, and friends make up traditional New Year's celebrations in the Philippines, but there is a twist. The custom on this day is to wear clothes with circular patterns like polka dots, as it is believed that circles attract money and fortune. For the same reason, many circular fruits are served on New Year's Day. Other traditions include throwing coins at the stroke of midnight to increase wealth for the coming year and jumping up high which is believed to cause a growth spurt.