At the stroke of midnight, eat 12 grapes in quick succession. It’s supposed to be good luck to eat one grape per each chiming of the clock (but it’s not so lucky if you choke on grapes because you ate them too fast).
Some people kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In Denmark, it’s a tradition to stand on chairs and then jump off them at the moment the New Year begins. (Another Danish tradition: throw old dishes at the door. Every broken plate is said to represent a new friend to be made in the new year.
Soba noodles are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Called toshi-koshi for the occasion (which translates to “from one year to another”), the buckwheat-based noodles are very long, and both symbolize and promise longevity.
Be careful if you do this one. It’s an old German past time on New Year’s to drop hot, molten lead into cold water. Whatever shape the lead takes as it hardens is said to be a harbinger of the New Year. Different shapes correspond to different things, such as new love or newfound wealth.
In this constituent nation of the U.K., families open their home’s back door as the clock strikes 12. Why? It’s said to “release” the outgoing year, along with all of its bad luck and baggage. As the clock tolls for the twelfth time, however, the door is then opened back up to welcome the New Year, along with all of its good luck.
This custom is also popular in Norway. Families or groups of friends make up a huge batch of rice pudding. Hidden inside is an almond, and whoever gets the almost in their bowl of pudding is said to have good luck in the coming year. (Similarly, in Greece, a coin is baked into a loaf of vasilopita, a sweet bread. A coin in your slice means you’re going to have a lucky New Year.)
People all over the world, including the United States, engage in this particular New Year’s custom, but it started in Scotland. As midnight hits in Scotland, people sing “Auld Lang Syne,” which was written in 1788 by Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland. Also in Scotland, partygoers toast with Scotch whisky, and then go “first footing” in their neighborhoods, which is a door-to-door exchange of food, drink, and other treats.