Skip to main content

Underwear, grapes part of New Year's traditions for revelers worldwide

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 4:41 PM EST, Sat December 31, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • People worldwide celebrate New Year's in different ways
  • Latin Americans express their hopes through the color of their underwear
  • In Denmark, people throw old dishes at their friends' homes

(CNN) -- What color underwear did you wear on New Year's Eve?

Your choice may say something about your culture and your hopes for 2012 -- as might whether you decide to ring in the new year by smashing dishes, respectfully bowing to your elders or feasting on everything from cabbage to sticky rice soup to black-eyed peas.

As they do every December 31, revelers around the world spent Saturday-into-Sunday ushering in the new year in distinctive ways. One of the most common was by watching fireworks light up the nighttime sky, though this was just one of many ways people found to celebrate and do all they could to ensure that the next 12 months proceed as they wish.

And yes, underwear is one way to state your intentions -- at least in many South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina.

If you wore yellow, that supposedly enhances your chances for abundance and reaping in more money. If it was red, then you'll more likely find love in 2012. And if you were sporting white underpants, preferably new and clean, then peace was your top priority for the coming year.

One New Year's theme that resonates across borders, ages and ethnic groups is feasting on foods in an effort to boost your prospects for the future. But the menu varies from place to place.

Cabbage represents money and sauerkraut is for living a long life for some of Northern European ancestry, for instance. People in Spain and many Latin American countries down 12 grapes, one each to "guarantee" a month of happiness. In parts of the American South, year-round favorites black-eyed peas, ham and collard greens carry special importance over the New Year's holiday.

People in the nation of Georgia don't count on a chef for good luck. Rather, they rely on the first person to come through their home's door after midnight -- a person who, theoretically, will bring them fortune for the following year. Snacking on candy on New Year's Eve is another way, in the former Soviet territory, to ensure that 2012 is likewise sweet, and not bitter.

New Year traditions: Scotland to Spain

Brazilians try to optimize their prospects for the coming year by jumping waves or, if they are not near the beach, eating lentil soup or handing out money. Besides raucously banging together pots and pans, Filipinos eat round fruits to bring good fortune.

Some New Year's traditions have nothing to do with luck. A front stoop littered with broken plates in Denmark, for instance, suggests that the person inside has a lot of friends since, each New Year's Eve, people throw their old dishes at the doors of their friends' homes.

The agenda for fun in Canada depends on where you are, from partying at a "reveillon" in Quebec to imbibing Screech rum in Newfoundland to savoring "beaver tail" -- a Canadian fried dough treat-- in Ontario.

Still, for all those who partake in grand New Year's events, there are many more who make their own traditions.

It may be a small gathering of family and friends, watching the Times Square ball drop on TV, or loudly running through the neighborhood. Some may simply go to sleep early, so they can be energized for an early New Year's Day hike -- perhaps while wearing underwear that suits their mood, and wishes, for 2012.

CNN's Marilia Brocchetto, George Kazarian, Kenneth Ernhofer, John Sanders, Peter Kaplan, Shruti Pant, Guilermo Arduino, Rafael Romo, Jane Lee, Bonnie Turner, Talia Kayali, Sara Yeglin and Armie Jarin-Bennett contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT