Mental Floss

10 Unusual Traditions for Ringing in the New Year around the World

David K. Israel
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Did you know that in Switzerland people ring in the new year by dropping a dollop of cream on the floor? Or how about how Armenians bake special bread with "good luck" and "best wishes" stamped into it? We thought you didn't. So in honor of 2010, here are 10 unusual traditions observed by different countries around the world.

1. Romania

In Romania, some believe that if you toss coins into the river, you'll have good luck throughout the coming year. Even more impressive: some peasants use December 31st to predict the coming year's weather by systematically peeling, salting and reading the skins of 12 onions. According to this source, "On St. Vasile's Day or New Year's Day, a person who is efficient in witchcraft and spells checks the level of the liquid left by the melted salt in each of the onions peels." The level helps them determine the climate conditions in the new year.

2. Spain

210px-Alfonso_XIII_de_España_(cropped)
210px-Alfonso_XIII_de_España_(cropped) /

3. Switzerland

Picture 3
Picture 3 /

4. Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, they blast car horns and boat whistles, ring church bells and beat drums to drive away evil spirits and demons. In some parts of the country they also throw pails of water from their windows at midnight in a bid to chase away the evil eye. Puerto Ricans also have an unusual tradition for bringing good luck in the coming year: they drop backwards into the breaking waves as the clock strikes 12.

5. Belgium

Belgium might be the only country where farmers wish their livestock happy new year to ensure 365 days of good health and well-being. Well, outside of India, where they bless cows frequently, and, of course, Sesame Street, where Bert and Ernie are always wishing the animals a happy this or that. Belgians are also known to exchange gifts on New Year's, which they celebrate as Sint Sylvester Vooranvond (St. Sylvester Eve).

6. France

pancake-800wi
pancake-800wi /

7. Armenia

In Armenia, a special kind of bread is baked with good luck and best wishes stamped on it. Traditionally, people conduct a "˜Ritual of Fire' on New Year's Eve where all troubles pertaining to the old year are symbolically burnt. This is not to be confused with the "Ring of Fire' in the fish tank on Finding Nemo.

8. Bolivia

yellow New Breddox Boxer Yellow F
yellow New Breddox Boxer Yellow F /

9. Portugal

carl
carl /

10. Japan

Not unlike what happens in Chicago after every Cub's season, the Japanese have "˜forget-the-year' parties and generally consider it a time to forgive and forget. They hang straw ropes across their homes' façades to ward away evil spirits and welcome good luck and happiness.

If you like these kinds of lists, there's plenty more where this one came from. Follow me on Twitter: @resila - and follow mental_floss here to stay up-to-date.

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