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New Year’s Traditions From Around the World

02 January 2022 4 min read

Christmas is over for another year. The crazy rush has given way to that awkward limbo between the Christmas festivities and the end of the year. It’s not been an easy year for many of us, but there’s also plenty to be thankful for. This year marked the start of illi, a long held dream for our founders - one we can hardly believe has come true! We’ve loved launching this business and we can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store.

So, while we’re still wrapping our heads around the fact that 2022 is here, we’re taking a look at some New Year’s traditions from a few of our favourite places around the world.


In France, New Year’s Eve is known as la Saint Sylvestre as it is a day dedicated to the saint. People celebrate with wine and special local dishes such as foie gras and oysters. Celebrations range from intimate dinners with friends to grand parties, attended by hundreds of people.

On New Year’s Day, people wish one another Bonne Année (Happy New Year). Families gather together and exchange gifts. In France, rather than sending Christmas cards, people are more likely to send and receive New Year’s cards. And kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year’s, rather than Christmas, tradition!

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Monaco harbour

The glamour and spectacle of Monaco is no more apparent than on New Year’s Eve. The streets of Monte-Carlo are awash with revellers and parties can be found on every street. In December, the Casino de Monte-Carlo hosts a stunning light show and party-goers gather in the main square on the 31st for music, dancing and fireworks.

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Everyone has their own way of celebrating New Year in Kenya. Some go to church, staying there until midnight to see in the New Year and giving thanks to God. While others go out dancing with friends. Fireworks are set off at midnight and people wish each other Sikukuu ya Mwaka Mpya!, meaning ‘Happy New Year!’ in Swahili.

On New Year’s Day, families prepare food, inviting visitors over and enjoying singing, dancing and other forms of entertainment together. Traditional foods eaten on the 1st include mbuzi (goat), various stews, chapati and mukimo (a mixture of spiced rice, peas, potatoes and other vegetables). After dinner is finished, some people dress in fine clothes and head out to visit local attractions.

A popular belief is that if you are good at the beginning of the year, you will be successful for the rest of it. Many people therefore spend time doing ‘good’ and making resolutions for the year ahead.

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Italian grapes

New Year’s traditions vary widely across the different provinces of Italy. However, most places celebrate on New Year’s Eve with light shows or spectacular fireworks displays to bring in the new year. Italians hold many traditions and special practices for New Year, with the aim of bringing good luck and wealth for the year ahead. These include:

  • Wearing red undergarments, which symbolise fertility and fortune
  • Eating 12 grapes before midnight (one for each ring of the bell) for good luck
  • Throwing old pots and pans, clothes and other unwanted items out of the window in preparation for the future - ‘out with the old, in with the new’
  • Eating 7 dried fruit and nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts, dates, raisins and dried figs) for good luck

Foods eaten at New Year include pork and lentil dishes, which symbolise wealth and riches, as well as risotto, which symbolises prosperity. A traditional holiday dessert is struffoli - fried dough balls dipped in honey and topped with coloured sugar and candied fruit. This dessert signifies abundance.

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Similar to the Italians, a Portuguese New Year tradition states that eating 12 raisins (originally it was grapes) at midnight will bring good fortune. Bolo-Rei (which means ‘king cake’), a traditional fruit cake, is eaten during the holiday season and traditionally contained a prize inside to be discovered.

Another tradition involves banging pots and pans out of the window, making lots of noise to ring in the new year. This tradition was initially thought to ward off evil spirits.

Having money in your pockets as you ring in the New Year will bring you wealth, according to superstition.

On New Year’s Day, many people brave the sea for a refreshing dip!

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London on New Year's Eve

In the UK, it wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without a fireworks display. From watching the massive London display on TV, to thousands of home displays, fireworks play a big part in our celebrations. On New Year’s Eve it is also traditional to celebrate the stroke of midnight with a New Year’s kiss, followed by crossing arms and holding hands with one another, singing the traditional song - Auld Lang Syne.

On New Year’s Day, we gather with friends and family, enjoy a hearty meal and share resolutions for the coming year.

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In Nepal, New Year is actually celebrated in mid-April, following the lunar calendar - Nepal Sambat. Known as Navarsha, the day is spent with parties, parades and food.

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The island of Aruba is an enchanting place to be for New Year’s. Dazzling, island-wide fireworks displays are set off, followed by performances from travelling musicians, known as ‘Dande’, meaning ‘to carouse or revel’. Dande performances are said to bring blessings of good will and prosperity. Groups travel to homes of family and friends, singing songs to wish them happiness and success for the year ahead. They use traditional instruments, such as drums, tambu, wiri and raspa.

During the fireworks displays, a particular kind of firework, known as pagara, is set off. Pagara is a long string of firecrackers, usually provided by local businesses. It’s said that the longer the string, the more successful the business has been that year, with some lasting as long as half an hour! The lighting of the pagara is also said to ward off evil spirits.

On New Year’s Day, many Arubans participate in ‘Nieuwjaarsduik’. People gather at Moomba beach for an invigorating Zumba class, followed by a plunge into the water at noon!

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It’s truly fascinating to witness how other cultures ring in the coming year. Whatever you have planned, we wish you a wonderful 2022, full of joy and peace!