New Year’s Around the World

As I was preparing for my Winter Holidays Around the World unit, I came across many unique and interesting traditions for New Year’s! I decided that after my students come back to school, we would continue our “travels” to learn about a few traditions for New Year’s and compare similarities to our favorite New Year’s traditions.

The New Year is not just in January!

Some countries, cultures, and religions celebrate the new year at different times of the year. This means that even when our studies are done in January, we can continue learning about New Year’s traditions throughout the year! For example, in my class we will learn about the Lunar New Year and Nowruz at the time of year they actually occur. Usually, I have students in my class that celebrate these and I invite in families to talk about how they celebrate them!

Good Luck for the New Year

new years around the world

One big theme for New Year’s across many cultures is setting hopes, goals, and wishing for good luck. In Mexico, people wear new clothes and underwear, but different colors mean different hopes in Mexico. Similarly, in the Philippines, people where polka dotted clothing for good luck. In Greece, it is common for people to hang onions and smash pomegranates on their door for good luck in the new year!

Counting Down the New Year

Many cultures count down the new year, but they do it in different ways! In the United States, we often watch the ball drop as we count down to midnight.

In Spain and some other Spanish speaking countries, people eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds before midnight – one grape a second. If you can finish all 12 before midnight, you will have good luck in the new year! In Denmark, people celebrate the final countdown by jumping into the new year – they jump off couches or chairs to land on the floor by midnight. In Japan, temples ring their bell 108 times before midnight.

New Year Lights

Many cultures include lights in their new year traditions. They have a fireworks show  – I know my family always goes to watch the fireworks. In Scotland, they have a River of Fire where they process the streets with torch lights!

New Year Gifts

new years traditions around the world

Several cultures give gifts to children on New Year’s. In Greece, children get gifts in their shoes while they sleep. In Russia, Ded Moroz (their version of Santa) brings gifts on New Year’s, instead of Christmas. And money is given to children in Lunar New Year celebrations.

New Year’s Music

Many cultures include music in their New Year’s celebrations. There is processions of songs and bell ringing in Romania. In South Africa the church bells ring in new year and you can find lots of concerts going on.


I have found it so interesting to learn about all the different traditions around the world for celebrating New Year’s. Whether you celebrate on January 1st or another day, I hope you have a wonderful and lucky New Year!

All of these activities can be found in my Teacher’s Pay Teachers product New Year’s Around the World.

New Year Free Activity For Kids


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