Who Rings in the New Year First?
Tonga is the first country in the world to ring in the new year! Tonga is a beautiful island nation located in the south Pacific ocean just east of Fiji and just north of New Zealand. As the first country in the world to ring in the new year, many locals celebrate with midnight church services. Being the first to ring in the new year also means Tonga gets the first sunrise of the new year and locals flock to Keitahi Beach in Vava’u to experience this special moment.
Following Tonga, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are next to ring in the new year.
As celebrations spread across the world, the last locations to ring in the new year are the Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa, and then last but not least, Baker Island and Howland- though these two islands are uninhabited so there are no major celebrations!
New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World
The celebration of the new year in Japan is called Oshogatsu, and it’s marked by the tradition of all the bells across the country ringing 108 times. Oshogatsu is a three day festival, but the highlight is the bell ringing that takes place on Shōgatsu (New Year’s Eve). As the Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times, it is said to drive away the 108 evil desires that humans can fall victim to, signifying the cleansing of these evil desires for the new year.
New Year’s Eve in France is celebrated with fine dining! Le reveillion de la Saint-Sylvestre is the name of the New Year’s Eve feast in France that often features succulent dishes such as foie gros, roast goose, oysters and champagne. The meal is meant to usher in wealth in the new year. Kissing under the mistletoe is a French New Year’s Eve tradition, and fireworks and other New Year’s Eve festivities take place on the world famous Champs-Elysées.
Ringing in the new year is actually a three day street party in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Starting on December 30th, people wind through the streets holding torches and marching and dancing along with pipers and drummers. The street party continues with fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In what could be one of the world’s looniest new year’s traditions, the bravest Scottish folk spend New Years Day taking part in Loony Dook where they dress up in costumes and fancy clothes and jump into the frigid water of the Firth of Forth. The tradition was started in the late 1980’s as an attempt to cure the NYE hangover, but is now a time honored New Years Day celebration in Scotland!
If celebrating the new year by jumping into frigid water isn’t your thing, head on over to Denmark instead- where the Danish ring in the new year by breaking dishes at the front doorsteps of their friends houses! People save up chipped and broken dishes all year long so they can go ring in the new year by breaking dishes at the doors of friends and family at midnight. The more broken dish shards you have on your doorstep on New Years morning, the more friends you must have and the better your year will be!
In many parts of Asia, round things symbolize good luck- and this rings true in the Philippines when it’s time to ring in the new year. Polka dots are the hot fashion trend for New Years Eve in the Philippines, with everyone wearing round polka dots for good luck. Filipinos also celebrate the New Year with round fruits and round coins- which not only symbolize good luck but also wealth and abundance. People carry coins with them and place coins throughout their home to celebrate the new year. Fireworks are also hugely popular when the clock strikes midnight in the Philippines.
Traditionally speaking, New Year’s Eve in South Africa means cleaning out the old and preparing for the new. And by cleaning house, they literally throw things out the window! It was not uncommon for old furniture and even appliances including refrigerators to be tossed out of windows on New Years Eve in South Africa, as this tradition was thought to help make the new year brighter. In recent years however, police officers have started to crack down on this tradition due to injuries suffered by pedestrians. Today, you’re more likely to find New Year’s Eve parties with singing, dancing and fireworks to celebrate the ringing in of the new year in South Africa!
On New Year’s Eve in Estonia, the more you eat the better luck and strength you’ll have in the new year. Estonians believe in eating a lucky number of meals on December 31st- and the numbers 7, 9, and 12 are the luckiest! However many meals you eat on New Year’s Eve will give you the strength of that many men in the coming year. But don’t worry- you don’t have to finish every last bite of each meal. It’s also tradition to leave a few bites of food on your plate for your ancestors.
While much of Canada celebrates New Year’s Eve with fireworks and parties, the Polar Bear Plunge is a NYE tradition that began years ago in Vancouver and has spread throughout all of Canada. On New Year’s Day, brave souls jump into icy waters to ring in the new year and raise money for various charities. They’re also called Polar Bear Swims and Polar Bear Dips, but whatever you call them, one thing is for certain- it’s cold up there in Canada on New Year’s Day!!
Spain rings in the new year with a speed eating challenge- and it’s a speed eating challenge that people actually practice for all year long! When the clock strikes midnight, you’re supposed to eat 12 grapes- one for each time the clock chimes! If you’re able to eat all 12 grapes with the chimes of the clock at midnight, you’ll be bless with a year of prosperity!
While people are speed eating grapes in Spain, folks in Ecuador ring in the new year by burning away bad memories from the past. Años Viejos celebrations involve the burning of años viejos figures, or Old Year effigy dolls. They dolls are scarecrows filled with paper or sawdust and modeled to look like public figures who engaged in some sort of wrongdoing in the previous year. Corrupt politicians or cancelled celebrities are popular figures that are burned at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The tradition began in 1985 during an outbreak of yellow fever as a way of burning clothing for purification. Out with the old (and corrupt) and in with the new and prosperous!
Nigeria celebrates the New Year with the Calabar Carnival, the largest street carnival in Africa! People dress up in animal masks and dance in the streets as a way to ward off negativity and bad energy heading into the new year. The carnival also features musicians, artists, food and local culture. People from all over Africa and even the world come to ring in the new year in Nigeria with the Calabar Carnival!
If you can’t make it to the Calabar Carnival in Nigeria, no worries! The Jameson Vic Falls Carnival in Zimbabwe is another fantastic carnival celebrating the New Year. With Africa’s largest and most spectacular waterfall as a backdrop, you’ll ring in the new year with fire dancers, stilt walkers, DJs and live musical performances, booze and great food at this three day “Electric Safari” celebration that culminates with a giant New Year’s Eve party.
Many families in Mexico spend New Year’s Eve cleaning their houses. Cleaning the house signficies renewal and new beginnings in the new year. At midnight, families will toss buckets of water out the windows for good luck. They’ll also take one final sweep of the house, sweeping the old right out the front door- then they’ll drop 12 coins outside and sweep them into the house for good luck. Other families will ring in the new year at the beach- where it’s considered good luck to jump over seven different waves and make a wish on each wave you jump over as the new year rings in!
Just like in Mexico, jumping over seven waves and making seven wishes is said to bring good luck in the new year in Brazil. The color white is said to also bring good luck in the new year. In fact- many people in Brazil wear white to jump the seven waves- and many people also bring a bouquet of flowers to throw in the water after they make their seven wave wishes!
The Chinese New Year celebration is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, though it always falls sometime between January 21st and February 20th. Dragons and lions, representing longevity and wealth, are featured heavily in Chinese New Years parades and celebrations. The parades also include noisemakers and firecrackers, whose noise is meant to ward off evil spirits entering the new year. Families give red envelopes of lucky money to family and friends with messages of hope, wealth, and good fortune in the new year.
If you’re looking to learn more about holiday celebrations around the world, we’ve got you covered with these posts: