Bizarre New Year traditions include swimming in subzero seas
Many Germans celebrate by watching a television repeat of a 50-year-old British comedy
Other activities include chomping grapes, racing pigs and hurling objects out of windows
The champagne is on ice, the fireworks are exploding overhead and the guests are getting down to some funky sounds – but isn’t your New Year’s Eve party a bit, well, last year?
Not everyone spends the last night of December carousing like the dawn will bring a Mayan apocalypse, yet they still manage to have a great evening.
So perhaps to see in 2013, it’s time to pour away the Moët & Chandon, defuse the skyrockets, eject the ABBA mixtape and take inspiration from some of the planet’s more unusual New Year celebrations by adding these to your shopping list:
Most parties lay on a few ice cubes for the cocktails, but if you really want your guests to chill, how about a frozen lake, river or sea. For some reason, glaciated bodies of water have a magnetic lure for new year revelers undeterred by hypothermia, frostbite or common sense. Sub-zero soaks are commonplace from Scotland to Siberia as swimmers, often fortified by a shot of booze, shiver themselves bluer than the cast of Avatar.
Why you should: An invigorating icy swim will wash away last year’s cobwebs.
Why you shouldn’t: It could also wash away frozen parts of your body.
After exposing your extremities to such a chilly experience it might be wise to have some thermals to hand, but sensible unmentionables aren’t on our list. Instead, like partygoers in Italy and some South American countries you should be thinking about a more dazzling set of drawers. In Italy, Spain and South and Central America, color-coded underpants take on special meaning at New Year with red or yellow auguring luck or romance.
Why you should: It’s a chance to liven up your lingerie.
Why you shouldn’t: With all this talk about pants and love you’ll need another icy dip.
German sense of humor
If you’re fed up with unfunny jokes told by drunken party guests, it’s time to tap into Germany’s love of deadpan absurdism. Almost every New Year’s Eve for the past half a century, German television has broadcast “Dinner for One,” a comic English play in which a sozzled butler imitates party guests to humor his elderly employer. The annual repeat of the show’s catchphrase: “The same procedure as last year,” adds to the hilarity and has helped it earn fans in several neighboring countries.
Why you should: The show’s saucy punchline is well worth it
Why you shouldn’t: The joke takes about 50 years to work properly
Broken television set
When endless reruns of “Dinner for One” result in frustration being taken out on your TV, you might be tempted to throw it out of the window in line with a now extinct Italian New Year tradition of defenestrating unwanted goods. A similar habit in South Africa has seen fridges and other household objects ejected from up high, sometimes resulting in injury and arrest.
Why you should: You shouldn’t.
Why you shouldn’t: It’s illegal, not to mention dangerous.
There’s nothing too unusual about serving grapes at a party – unless you follow the traditions of Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica where 12 grapes are consumed on New Year’s Eve, each a symbol of the months that lie ahead. In Spain the grapes must be eaten in time with the 12 chimes of midnight, which can turn the traditional New Year’s kiss into a messy business.
Why you should: Grapes are a tasty source of anti-oxidants and vitamins.
Why you shouldn’t: Inhaling grapes = Heimlich Maneuver.
Back to Germany for another unusual ritual in which a spoonful of lead is melted over a candle then dropped into a bucket of water. The shapes formed by the cooling metal are then divined for signs of what lies in the year ahead. Certain formations have specific meanings: An egg signifies a growing family, a clover means luck and a hat shape means good news. No one takes it seriously.
Why you should: It’s fun.
Why you shouldn’t: It’s nonsense.
In the Swiss ski resort of Klosters, the first day of January is celebrated with a piglet race in which 10 tiny porkers sprint through the snow for the enviable prize of being spared from the sausage factory. The winner is usually adopted as a town mascot for the year.
Why you should: Piglets! So cute!
Why you shouldn’t: The losers get eaten.
Chairs at a party aren’t exactly a radical innovation, but in Denmark they are typically used as a launching pad for people who believe that by leaping into the New Year they will banish malevolent spirits.
Why you should: You can claim your new year exercise regime has started early.
Why you shouldn’t: You’ll need the icy water again to bathe those twisted ankles.
Sailors love a good party, but are notoriously superstitious souls, believing that it is unlucky to begin a voyage on December 31. Maritime lore also suggests that feathers plucked from a wren slain on New Year’s Day can protect seafarers from dying in a shipwreck.
Why you should: You polished off those piglets, so a wren isn’t going to hurt your conscience.
Why you shouldn’t: Nothing kills a party like a dead bird.
Britain has a certain reputation when it comes to New Year’s Eve, particularly in Scotland where Hogmanay celebrations – climaxing in a rendition of the traditional Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne” – can border on the bacchanalian. So it is perhaps a surprise to discover that, according to a survey conducted last year, over a third of Britons prefer to be tucked up in bed on the stroke of midnight.
Why you should: You’ll avoid the most overrated party of the year.
Why you shouldn’t: Champagne corks, fireworks and ABBA will keep you awake anyway.