The New Year is truly an international holiday, but in different countries it is celebrated in its own way. Italians, for example, throw old irons and chairs out of the windows with all the southern passion, the inhabitants of Panama are trying to make noise as loud as possible, for which they turn on the sirens of their cars, whistle and scream. In Ecuador, special importance is attached to underwear, which brings love and money, in Bulgaria people turn off the light, because the first minutes of the New Year – this is the time of New Year’s kisses. In Japan, 108 bells are sounded instead of usual 12 ones, and the best New Year’s accessory is the rake – to rake in happiness.


Italian Santa Claus is Babbo Natale. Babbo Natale is a skinnier and more regal looking version of Santa Claus. They both wear red cloaks with white trim, but Santa Claus has most decidedly enjoyed more second helpings at the dinner table than Babbo Natale.

In Italy people believe that the New Year should be started, freeing itself from everything old. Therefore, on New Year’s Eve it is customary to throw old things out of the windows. The Italians like this custom very much, and they fulfill it with all the passion that is characteristic of southerners: old irons, chairs and other trash fly through the window. The people believe that, new things will occupy the vacant place certainly.


In Sweden, before the New Year, the children choose the Queen of Light Lucia. She is dressed in a white dress, wearing a crown with lighted candles on her head. Lucia brings gifts to children and delicacies to pets: a cream to a cat, a sugar bone to a dog, a carrot to a donkey. On a festive night, people do not turn off the lights in houses, the streets are brightly lit.


Historian Andrei Zabolotnyi said that it is customary in England to play out performances for children for New Year on the subjects of old English fairy tales. Lord Disorder leads to a fun carnival procession, in which fabulous characters take part: Hobby Horse, March Hare, Humpty Dumpty, Punch and others. On New Year’s Eve, street vendors sell toys, whistles, peepers, masks, balloons. A custom to exchange Christmas greeting cards was appeared first in England. The first Christmas card was printed in London in 1843.


The most widespread national custom is the practice of first-footing, which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal,shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake), intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses well into the middle of January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. Traditionally, tall, dark-haired men are preferred as the first-foot.

It is customary for New Year’s Eve to set fire to barrels of tar and roll them along the streets, thus burning the Old Year and inviting a New Year.


The main character of the New Year carnival in Colombia is Old Year. He walks in a crowd on high stilts and tells funny stories to children. Papa Pasquale is a Colombian Santa Claus. No one knows fireworks better than him.


French Santa Claus – Per Noel – comes on New Year’s Eve and leaves gifts in children’s shoes. The one who gets a bob baked in the New Year’s pie, gets the title of “bean king” and on a festive night all obey his orders.

FinlandHomeland of Santa Claus

The historian also told about the traditions of celebrating the New Year in Finland. “In snow-covered Finland, the main winter holiday is Christmas, which is celebrated on December 25. On Christmas night, having overcome a long road from Lapland, Santa Claus comes into the house, leaving a large basket with gifts for the children’s delight. New Year is a kind of Christmas repetition. Again the whole family gathers at the festive table. On New Year’s Eve Finns are trying to find out their future and are wondering, melting wax and pouring it into cold water,” Zabolotnyi said.


In Germany, it is believed that Santa Claus on New Year appears on the donkey. Before going to bed, the children put a plate on the table for gifts, which Santa Claus will bring, and put hay in the shoes – a treat for his donkey.


Children’s New Year’s holiday in Cuba is called the Day of Kings. Kings-wizards, who bring gifts to children, are called Baltasar, Gaspar and Melchor. On the eve of the New Year the children write letters to them, in which they tell of their cherished desires. Cubans in the New Year’s Eve fill with water all the dishes that are in the house, and at midnight they start pouring it out of the windows. In such a way all the inhabitants of the Island of Freedom wish the New Year a bright and clean way, like water. And while the clock beats 12 beats, people need to eat 12 grapes, and then goodness, harmony, prosperity and peace will accompany them all twelve months.


“In Hungary, in the” fateful “first second of the New Year people prefer to whistle – and using not fingers, but children’s pipes, horns, whistles. It is believed that they are driving away evil spirits from houses and calling for joy and prosperity. Preparing for the holiday, Hungarians do not forget about the magical power of New Year’s dishes: beans and pea keep the strength of spirit and body, apples – beauty and love, nuts can protect from harm, garlic – from illnesses, and honey – sweeten life,” Zabolotniy said.


Japanese children celebrate New Year in new clothes. It is believed that this brings health and luck in the New Year. On New Year’s Eve they hide under the pillow a picture depicting a sailboat on which seven fairy magicians are swimming – seven patrons of happiness. 108 rings of the bell announce the coming of the New Year in Japan. According to an old belief, each ring “kills” one of human vices. But each of the vices has 18 different shades – that’s what the Japanese bell rings on them. Japanese Santa Claus is called Segatsu-san – Lord New Year.

Czech Republic and Slovakia

A cheerful little man, dressed in a shaggy fur coat, a tall mutton hat, with a box behind him, comes to Czech and Slovak children. His name is Mikulash. For those who have studied well, he will always have gifts.


Father Frost sails to Holland on the ship. Children joyfully meet him at the pier. Santa Claus loves funny jokes and surprises and often gives children marzipan fruits, toys, candy flowers.


In China, the New Year’s tradition of bathing the Buddha has been preserved. On this day, all the Buddha statues in temples and monasteries are respectfully washed in clear water from mountain springs. And people pour water on them at a time when others say New Year wishes for happiness. Therefore, on this festive day, everyone walks the streets in thoroughly soaked clothes.


In Bulgaria, guests, relatives gather for the New Year at the festive table and the lights are turned off in all houses for three minutes. The time when guests stay in the darkness is called minutes of New Year’s kisses, the secret of which will be kept by dark.


Historian Andrei Zabolotnyi said, “On January 1, Kyrgyzstan celebrates the national holiday – the New Year. The first public New Year party in the history of Kyrgyzstan was held in Pishpek on December 28, 1895. 200 children were invited. They were students of men’s and women’s schools. The funds were collected by the local intelligentsia. A merry holiday was a success, but it did not end with one party – in the evening of the same day an amateur performance was staged with charitable purposes. The considerable sum of 85 rubles for those times, which was collected, was used to help poor city students, as well as to the library-reading room that was supposed to be open.”

The celebration of the New Year in Kyrgyzstan practically does not differ from a similar holiday in other republics of the former USSR. But, the New Year in Kyrgyzstan is often celebrated without snow at a temperature of plus ten. However, those who wish can go to the mountains to the ski resorts, where there is as much snow. By tradition, the country’s main tree is set on the central Ala-Too square, which at this time enjoys even greater popularity among the population and tourists.

Anton Kubitsky
Kabar News Agency
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