Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and blogger. She's passionate about health, wellness and style, and you'll often find her reading self-help books in nature, catching a yoga class or writing in Toronto cafés.
The New Year is all about hope, fresh starts and celebration. We usually think of it as a time to let loose and party with loved ones, but there are countless unconventional ways to ring in the New Year.
Depending on which part of the world you’re visiting, New Year traditions can take a wide range of forms. There’s always something to learn from different cultures, and celebrations are one of the most telling aspects of a country, city or part of the world.
Here in Canada, we often spend New Year’s Eve eating, drinking and dancing in clubs, but immersing yourself in another culture can offer up a much more colourful and memorable experience. If you’re still stuck on how to spend New Year’s Eve this year, take notes from these cultures on the most meaningful, symbolic and fun ways to mark the start of 2018.
In Brazil, food is a huge part of New Year celebrations. Certain foods like lentils are considered lucky and prosperous for the year ahead, so dishes like lentil soup or lentils with rice are served. Rice, pork and pomegranate seeds are also considered lucky, so it couldn’t hurt to include these foods in your first meal of 2018.
Dressing up as a bear
Romanians are known to dress up as terrifying bears and dance around to each other’s houses on New Year’s Eve as part of an old custom from pre-Christian times. The tradition is meant to ward off evil spirits and celebrate the New Year, so you’ll want to make sure your costume is complete with plenty of sharp teeth if you’re looking to take part in this custom.
In the Bahamas, Junkanoo is a musical and colourful street parade that takes place not only on New Year’s Day, but also on Boxing Day and during the summer. Many believe the festival originates from the time of slavery, when slaves had a three-day break around Christmas time and would dance around in colourful costumes. Junkanoo still takes place in the Bahamas today, and the best place to witness the bright spectacle is in the capital of Nassau.
Chinese New Year
Usually taking place in late January or early February, Chinese New Year is one of the country’s most important and significant cultural traditions. The Chinese celebrate the New Year in many ways including fireworks, a big family dinner, cleaning and festivals. Chinese New Year also means that adults, especially married couples and the elderly, will gift children with red packets filled with money to ensure health, wealth and prosperity as they grow.
The Balinese New Year is known as “Nyepi,” a Hindu celebration meaning “Day of Silence.” On this day, the people of Bali will fast, meditate and reflect from six a.m. until six a.m. the next day, when the Balinese celebrate their version of New Year’s Day with rituals and family time. This year, Nyepi falls on March 17, 2018, so if you’re planning a trip to Bali, make sure you respect the day of quietude.