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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  New Year's Traditions From Around The World

City Traveler Blog

New Year's Traditions From Around The World

As the end of 2013 slowly approaches and we immerse ourselves within the wonderland so elegantly disguised as winter, we look back on yet another year of memories.

Families all over the world have distinctive New Year’s Day traditions that make this holiday so special. Do you plan on partying with friends, imbibing some drinks and watching fireworks as 2013 gives way to 2014? Or do you plan on staying home, getting cozy and watching the ball drop on television? Regardless of what your plans are, CityPASS is going to take a trip around the world to highlight some New Year’s traditions, along with a few regional New Year’s traditions around the U.S.—so buckle up!


Situated on the opposite side of the globe, this country sure knows how to ring in the New Year. New Years is the most important holiday in Japan and is a symbol of renewal. At the end of every year, the Japanese gather for various types of Bonekai or “forget-the-year-parties.” These gatherings are held to bid farewell to the problems and anxieties of the past year and prepare for a new beginning. At midnight on December 31st Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in effort to expel 108 types of human weakness.


If you are hoping for happiness in the coming year (and who isn’t?), your best bet is to travel across the Atlantic to Spain. The most common tradition for Spaniards is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. This ritual is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year and is certainly one of the most unique traditions around the globe.


Luckily for the Greek population, New Year’s Day aligns with one the country’s biggest festivals, the Festival of St. Basil. St. Basil was one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church and a very influential figure in Greek history. One of the day’s traditional activities includes the baking of St. Basil’s cake, but there is one expensively lavish twist: a silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake, and whoever finds the coin amidst their multi-layered pastry will be especially lucky during the coming year. If you’re a fan of dessert, Greece might be your best bet for luck in 2014.

Great Britain

Similar to celebrations in the United States, Great Britain celebrates by gathering in the country’s capital and most bustling city. Thousands celebrate in London while watching the fireworks along the River Thames. When Big Ben strikes midnight, it marks the official beginning of the New Year. The general population celebrates with champagne, pastries, friends and family, and noise-makers.


Just a bit to the east of the UK, the country of Germany has a unique tradition that dates back thousands of years. German citizens commonly drop molten lead into cold water, letting the lead take a particular shape that will dictate the future and upcoming year. If you end up with a heart or ring shape, it means a wedding is coming; a ship means that you will embark on a journey, and so on. The Germans also leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year’s Eve on their plate until after midnight, as a way to ensure the New Year will bring a well-stocked pantry and dinner table.

United States

The United States is a fantastic melting pot of people with roots from many of the countries already named here. Considering the size and diverse population of the U.S., each region of the country has some of its own unique traditions. Some are modern, while others have carried over from the “old country” and were passed down through several generations.

San Francisco

If you find yourself in Northern California and you’re looking for an attraction in San Francisco to ring in the New Year, be sure to find a comfortable spot near the Embarcadero. The Embarcadero is the eastern waterfront and roadway of the Port of San Francisco and plays home to some of the best sights the city has to offer, especially on New Year’s Eve. Cozy up near the water with friends and family and take in the sights of one of the best firework shows in North America.


Similar to New York, but with a sweeter twist, Atlanta is home to one of the most exciting traditions in the country. Instead of the ball dropping at midnight, Atlanta is home to the only Peach Drop, the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in the southeast. The celebration is a festival-type atmosphere with rides, live music, face painting, street performers, food and more. As 2014 nears, the main stage lights up and the 800 pound peach makes its descent just before the clock strikes midnight.

New York City

Though the amount of attractions in New York City may have you juggling various ideas around for your New Year’s Eve celebration, nothing quite compares to the annual ball-drop. We all know this is by far the most popular American New Year’s Eve tradition, but there are a few interesting facts that you may not know about New Year’s Eve in Times Square. This event has been taking place since 1907 and attracts more than 1 million spectators yearly. Although the ball may seem small from afar, it’s actually 12 feet in diameter and weighs around 700 pounds. If the Big Apple is your destination of choice for this year, be sure to make an appearance in Times Square for a magical evening.

No matter where you’re located during that extra special 60 seconds of time between 11:59pm on December 31, 2013 and midnight on January 1, 2014, be sure to make your New Year’s celebration magical, because all over the globe cultures and countries will be doing the same!

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