New Year’s Day traditions

New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated days of the year, but do you know of the many festivities that continue into New Year’s Day?

polar run tradition

by Ellen Kinsey |

New Years is all about time to start a new and reflect on the time passed. It's a festivity celebrated all around the world, some at different times but to each culture, this day holds a lot of significance.

You may already have your own traditions for New Years Day, like going for a family walk or getting started on your list of New Year's resolutions. If you're looking for new traditions or are curious as to what others around the world get up to, here is a list of things people do on New Year’s Day! Some things for good luck, some are foods to be eaten and others are customs from across the globe.

New Year’s Song

new year party

Leading up to midnight almost every English-speaking country gathers around to sing the “Auld Lang Syne,”. To welcome in the new year people hold each other's hands in a circle and sing the tune together. The song was written by Robert Burns in the 1700s, and the words Auld Lang Syne means “old long ago” or “the good old days”.

Cold-water plunge

polar plunge

To start the new year on New Year’s Day, it is traditional for people who live close to water run into the ocean or the lake despite the low winter temperatures! This event is usually to raise money for charity and is sometimes called a Polar Bear Plunge. This tradition is observed typically in places such as the UK, Canada, USA and the Netherlands.

Dydd Calan


In Wales on New Year's Day or "Dydd Calan", in true tradition the children wake up early to visit their neighbours to sing them songs. They are given coins, mince pies, apples and other sweets for singing. Depending on where you live in Wales some regions still celebrate Dydd Calan on the 12th of January.

Hoppin’ John - A southern dish

hoppin john

After the big celebration the night before it is typical to watch football on New Year’s Day in the United States. In the southern states, a traditional dish for New Year’s Day is called ‘Hoppin’ John. This dish is made up of black-eyed peas, pork and rice and are said to bring good luck and peace for the rest of the year!

The traditional New Year’s Day meal is frequently eaten with collard greens which represent cash, golden cornbread and black-eye peas which represent coins. Some families place a penny underneath the dish to bring extra good fortune.

First Footing


Scotland celebrates the New Year in a big way. The celebration is called. “Hogmanay”, which is a type of oatcake that was typically given to children on New Year Eve. At the stroke of midnight leading into New Year’s Day, there is a tradition called the first footing. As strangers are thought to bring good luck, the first person to set foot into your home after the stroke of midnight is thought to significantly influence your fortunes for the next year.

Read more: Burns night: what it is and how it started

Jump into the New Year


In Denmark, it is tradition to stand on chairs before midnight and “leap” into the new year. This is thought to bring good luck and banish bad spirits.

Onion on the head

onions on head

Greeks ring in the new year with card games and feasting. It is tradition for an onion to be hung up on the front door on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day for the parents to wake up their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.

Celebration Cake


Another Greek tradition on New Year’s Day is to eat a cake called Vasilopita. This sweet bread cake is topped with almonds and is only eaten on January first. Traditionally, the cake is baked with a coin inside and whoever has the slice with the coin is supposed to have good luck for the following year.

Twelve grapes

12 grapes

A custom in Spain and Mexico is to eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight. This is said to bring you good luck for the twelve months ahead.

Fish for good luck

fish for luck

Another traditional New Year’s Day food is fish. Fish is very popular to eat over the new year. In some cultures, people as people eat fish on new year’s since they symbolise moving in one direction – forward. Others think fish signify abundance since they swim in groups.

In some Asian cultures, they eat fish to celebrate Lunar New year. In Europe shiny scaled fish such as cod, herring, and carp are eaten as they represent wealth or shiny coins.

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