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World's Strangest New Year Traditions

See the slideshow: World's Strangest New Year Traditions

Strangest New Year Traditions: South Africa

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South Africa

In downtown Jo-burg, locals throw old appliances out the window. Heads up!—Melanie Lieberman

Strangest New Year Traditions: Colombia

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Colombia

Hoping for a travel-filled year, residents tote empty suitcases around the block.  —Melanie Lieberman

Strangest New Year Traditions: Japan

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Japan

The faithful wear a costume of the next year’s zodiac animal (in 2014: a horse) to the local temple, where bells chime a sacred 108 times. —Melanie Lieberman

Strangest New Year Traditions: Denmark

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Denmark

Danes ring in the New Year by hurling old plates and glasses...against the doors of friends' and relatives' houses. They also stand on chairs and then jump off them together at midnight. Leaping into January is supposed to banish bad spirits and bring good luck.
Strangest New Year Traditions: Spain

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Spain

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, it’s customary in Spain to quickly eat 12 grapes (or uvas)—one at each stroke of the clock. Each grape supposedly signifies good luck for one month of the coming year. In Madrid, Barcelona, and other Spanish cities, revelers congregate in the main squares to gobble their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.
Strangest New Year Traditions: Finland

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Finland

It’s a longtime Finnish tradition to predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, and then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring shape means a wedding in the New Year; a ship forecasts travel; and a pig shape signifies plenty of food.
Strangest New Year Traditions: Panama

Oyvind Martinsen / Alamy

Panama

Effigies of well-known people—called muñecos—are traditionally burned in New Year’s bonfires in Panama. The figures can include everyone from television characters like “Ugly Betty” to political figures like Fidel Castro (in 2007, Panama’s first Olympic gold medalist, track star Irving Saladin, was burned as a muñeco). The effigies represent the old year; immolating them is meant to drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year’s start.

Strangest New Year Traditions: Scotland

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Scotland

During the New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, “first-footing” is practiced all over Scotland. The custom dictates that the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the New Year should carry a gift for luck (whiskey is the most common). The Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies, most notably in the small fishing village of Stonehaven, where townsmen parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles overhead (supposedly symbols of the sun, to purify the coming year).
Strangest New Year Traditions: Philippines

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Philippines

Round shapes (representing coins) are thought to symbolize prosperity for the coming year in the Philippines; many Filipino families display heaps of round fruits on the dining table for New Year’s Eve. Other families are more particular; they eat exactly 12 fruits at midnight (grapes, which are also eaten at midnight in Spain, are easiest). Still others wear New Year polka dots for luck.
Strangest New Year Traditions: Belarus

Simon Belcher / Alamy

Belarus

During the traditional celebration of Kaliady, still-unmarried women play games to predict who will be wed in the New Year. In one game, a pile of corn is placed before each woman, and a rooster is let go; whichever pile the rooster approaches first reveals who will be the first to marry. In another game, a married woman hides certain items around her house for her unmarried friends to find; the woman who finds bread will supposedly marry a rich husband; the one who finds a ring will marry a handsome one.

See the slideshow: World's Strangest New Year Traditions

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