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Fun and Bizarre New Year’s Activities from Every Continent (Antarctica Included)

Dec 31, 2013 By Karsten Piper

It’s the last day of the old year, and all over the world people are attending soirees, shooting off fireworks, singing songs, and kissing each other. But maybe you hate parties, explosions, music, and love. If so, here are ideas from every continent to bring a little fun back into your sad, cynical New Year’s Eve.

Go outside and watch the animals…

…like a visitor to Antarctica. Daylight lasts around the clock this time of year, and several companies take tourists over New Year’s to watch penguins, seals, whales, and seabirds.

Penguins at New Years

This activity crosses happily with the Romanian tradition of listening to animals to find out whether any of them start talking. Fortunately for Romanians, it’s good luck if the animals keep quiet.

Eat 12 grapes at midnight…

…along with many Mexicans — one grape for each month of the coming year. Make a wish each time; if the grape is sweet, that will be a good month. If it’s sour, well, chupa para usted.

Crossdress. Or Fistfight.

In Ecuador, young men dress up as buxom women and block the streets flirting and asking for money to represent the mourning “widow” of the year that has passed.

New Year's Widow

If you’re a fighter not a lover, though, you may prefer the annual, fistfights in Peru that settle the year’s quarrels.

Bring whiskey to your neighbors.

Right after midnight, Scots begin “first-footing.” The first person to set foot in a friend’s home in the new year must carry gifts like salt, coal, shortbread, whiskey, or a black bun to bring luck to the owner of the house. If that’s too social for you, why not go Russian and jump through the ice of your nearest lake or river while holding a tree trunk.

Russian Ice Jumper

Play poker, and hit the loser’s face with a pie.

This doesn’t symbolize anything—it’s just the good people of Melbourne, Australia, keeping things light-hearted right up to the end of the year.

Wear polka dots…

…to invite prosperity along with folks in the Philippines. Or, if you prefer to be more serious about your money, make like the Vietnamese and prepare for the coming year by paying off all your debts.

Throw furniture out your window…

…along with residents of Johannesburg, South Africa. Out with the old, and watch out below.

Happy New Year, everyone!


  1. Sharon says:

    Loved this! In Spain they also eat 12 grapes at midnight and they also have a tradition of wearing red underwear.
    – Sharon (theworldwider.net)

  2. Karsten Piper says:

    Thanks for the comment, Sharon. :-) I came across that fact about red underwear, too. And apparently in Ecuador, they favor yellow . On the same blog that described the young men cross-dressing, there’s a picture of a street vendor’s table piled high with bright yellow undies. Funny stuff.


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