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Find your new New Year’s tradition in Europe.

Alex Shaked
by Alex Shaked

May 22, 2023

5 minute read

The new year brings promises of starting fresh, and there are superstitions and traditions around the world to start us off on the right foot.

Some are more well-known than others. In many countries, there’s lore that the color of your undergarments will set the tone for the year: Wear red underwear for passion and love, yellow for prosperity and wealth, and green for health and wellness. In the Philippines, people wear polka dots because circular shapes are reminiscent of coins and a signifier of prosperity. Japanese people eat soba noodles to break away from the year prior.

While some New Year traditions are pretty global, like smooching our special someone as the clock strikes twelve and sipping on a flute of bubbly, there may be some superstitions in some of your favorite European destinations that may surprise you.


Friends, Food, and Kisses

Bonne année, mes amis! In France, this holiday is truly dedicated to one’s friends, as opposed to the more family-oriented Christmas holiday. So gather your pals, and pop some champagne!

Despite the friendship focus on New Year’s Eve, New Year is actually the holiday in France that has mistletoe vs. Christmas. S’embrasser sous le gui’, meaning to kiss under the mistletoe, can be a signifier of love and romance through the upcoming year when it’s a romantic interest. Kissing your friends on both cheeks is a big part of the celebration at midnight! While many French people opt to have their parties with friends at home, there’s no shortage of parties out on the town. The Paradis Latin Cabaret New Year's Eve Gala Dinner & Show is an extravagant party that goes well into New Year’s Day.

Sharing rich foods with your friends is a staple in France, but especially on New Year’s Eve. It’s not uncommon to see pop up oyster (huître, en français) stands in Paris, and extravagant delicacies like escargot, foie gras, and caviar are all regular items on the NYE dinner menu. The New Year’s Eve dinner even has its own special name: the Réveillon, or an awakening, into what lies ahead.

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Grapes, Gold, and Midnight Snacks

The tradition of the twelve grapes of luck, or las doce uvas de la suerte, is both a superstition and a challenge. Eating twelve grapes, one for every stroke of the clock at midnight to represent the upcoming 12 months, can be a difficult undertaking. (Imagine if you didn’t purchase your grapes carefully and you have to combat with seeds? Yikes.) The superstition states you have to finish all 12 before the final chime of the clock, or you’ll have misfortune in the new year.

If you’re looking for a lower pressure grape-based superstition … there’s always wine. Cava is a super delicious sparkling Spanish wine that is similar to Champagne, but is produced using different grapes (and obviously not in France). You can drop a gold coin or ring into your flute of Cava prior to the new year’s toast to encourage wealth in the upcoming year. You must finish the drink and fish your items out of the glass for this to work, so the tradition states.

Once you’ve had enough of these grape challenges, reward yourself with a sweet midnight snack. Many people in Spain end their new year celebrations with a warm hot chocolate and churros. It’s a sweet way to kick off the year and an amazing treat to send you off to sleep.

(P.S. Bonus tradition: Spain is also on board with the red underwear thing.)


Raisins, Ruckus, and Cash

Move over, grapes! Portugal has a very similar tradition to Spain’s las doce uvas de la suerte. Instead, sub your grapes for their dried counterpart and get ready to eat 12 raisins. (I may have some bias because my family is Portuguese, but I’m partial to raisins vs. grapes. Sorry, Spain.)

If you’ve carried cash on you on New Year, you’ve been honoring a Portuguese tradition without even realizing it. Superstition states that if your pockets are empty when the clock hits 12, you’ll be stuck with financial bad luck for the rest of the year. Though, the pocket part is up for debate. Some people have cash in their hands, wallets, or even shoes. Some versions include stepping on a chair with your cash to represent moving up.

There’s one tradition you certainly would not have done unintentionally, and that’s banging cookware together to cause general noise and chaos at midnight. Is it taking ringing in the new year a bit literally? Sure. But the superstition was initially meant to ward off evil spirits and bad vibes from the bad year.

Lastly, and may this be the last time I ever mention underwear on this blog, some Portuguese folks don blue undergarments for good luck as a part of their New Year’s Eve festivities.

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