Across the Borders: How the new year connects us all

A look at New Year’s traditions around the world can bring us closer together

A new year signifies a fresh start, a clean slate, a time for rebirth and regrowth. All across the world, there are countless traditions associated with the new year that symbolize these themes. A deeper look at these traditions could even provide a glimpse into something deeper that connects us all.

In Spain, those celebrating stuff one grape for each chime of the clock at midnight into their mouths. This is to ward off bad luck for the new year. Every grape symbolizes each month of the year. If all 12 are not eaten at the stroke of midnight, it is considered bad luck.

In Siberia, professional divers brave the cold to plant trees underneath frozen lakes. The planting of the New Year tree, or yolka, symbolizes a new start.

In Denmark, the tradition is smashing glass to symbolize the shattering of problems from the previous year. Danes save up glassware throughout the year to have enough supply for the new year. It is also common to smash glass on the doorstep of friends and loved ones– the more glass on your doorstep, the more good luck the new year will bring.

In Colombia and Ecuador, people make dummies or scarecrows to burn as a way of leaving the bad behind for the new year. These effigies can resemble someone you dislike or someone who died in the previous year. The burning takes place on New Year’s Eve so people can start the year anew.

In Romania, they practice the “Dance of the Bear.” Dancers dress up as bears and gypsies “chain” the bear during the dance. The ritual is meant to ward off bad spirits and symbolize the end of the old year and start of the new.

In Korea, the new year typically starts with a ceremonial bowing to elders and deceased ancestors. Respect for elders and the importance of family is emphasized with this tradition. It is also common to eat rice cake soup. The rice cakes are white and meant to symbolize “a clean start and new beginning for the new year.”

As one can see, there are a variety of ways to ring in the new year from eating certain foods to dancing. These traditions are all done, however, for a similar purpose. It is to provide the best possible start for the New Year whether that be warding off bad luck from the previous year or paving a fresh beginning for the new one. Across the world, we look forward to the push that the new year brings. We welcome the new opportunities and collectively hope for a better year. We are connected through this aspiration so let us use this year to relate more to each other, to listen, to be an ally– for we are all hoping for the same thing.