10 of the World's Most Entertaining New Year's Customs

zetter/iStock via Getty Images
zetter/iStock via Getty Images

Watching the ball drop in Times Square, raising a toast, and sealing the night with a smooch may be the most quintessentially American way to celebrate New Year's Eve, but around the world, revelers and party-goers give those traditions a run for their money. From a cemetery sleepover in Chile to a water gun fight in the streets of Thailand, here are 10 of the world’s most entertaining ways to ring in the new year.

1. BRAZIL // UNDERWEAR ATTIRE

While some of us don our most shimmery dresses for New Year's Eve parties—or our comfiest pajamas to celebrate with a low-key night in—Brazilians take a much simpler, minimalistic approach to celebrating New Year's: The dress code is for all-white attire, but the color of your underwear is thought to determine your arena of luck in the upcoming year. Want to find love? Pick the pink panties. Financial security may be attained by wearing yellow undergarments, and green is for good health.

2. DENMARK // SHATTERING DISHES

A photo of a pile of shattered plates.
Scott O'Neill/iStock via Getty Images

The Danish get a jump on cleaning out their cupboards by taking any chipped or unused crockery and shattering it against their friends' and families' doors to ring in the new year. The more plate pieces piled at your doorstep, the more popular your family is … which may or may not make the next day's hungover cleanup more manageable.

3. SPAIN // A MOUTH FULL OF GRAPES

The Spanish don’t just celebrate New Year's Eve with drink in hand—they ring it in with a mouthful of grapes. If you can fit 12 grapes into your mouth at midnight, you’re believed to have great luck in the coming year.

4. SIBERIA // LAKE DIVING WITH A "NEW YEAR TREE"

A typical ball-and-gown party doesn’t cut it in Siberia; they’re all about the thrill—and chill. To celebrate the beginning of a new year, some revelers participate in the annual "jump into a frozen lake and plant a Christmas tree at the bottom" tradition—sort of like a more extreme Polar Plunge. The divers then pass the champagne and dance around the tree before coming back up to the surface. After the holidays, the divers retrieve the tree and warm up before doing it all again the next year.

5. CHILE // CEMETERY SLEEPOVER

In the town of Talca, Chile, locals add extra spirit to New Year’s Eve by celebrating the holiday in a cemetery, surrounded by all of their deceased loved ones. Legend has it this tradition started with a little breaking and entering, but it’s now a welcomed celebration that draws locals in by the thousands.

6. ESTONIA // EATING SEVEN TIMES ON NEW YEAR'S DAY

Estonia knows how to kick off the new year right. Instead of resolving to diet and exercise, they eat—a lot. Like so many cultures, Estonians believe that the number seven has some luck behind it, and that by eating seven times on New Year’s Day, they could gain the strength of seven people. The tradition is also tied to a belief that an abundance of food going into the new year means a family's dinner table will never be empty throughout the year.

7. THAILAND // WATER FIGHT

A celebration of Songkran, Thailand's New Year celebration, which is held every April.
Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

While the Thai New Year isn’t until April 13, their celebratory festival, called Songkran, is just too good to pass up: a water fight. Yes, a full-on water fight where major roads are blocked off and Thai locals—and, as you’d imagine, loads of visitors—use buckets, fire hoses, water guns, and even elephants to throw water at each other. Inner child, rejoice—and purchase Songkran plane tickets immediately.

8. ECUADOR // BURNING EFFIGIES

Ecuador literally lights up on New Year’s Eve. Locals make large, paper-filled effigies that can resemble anyone from beloved pop culture figures like Homer Simpson to maligned politicians, and they set them on fire when the clock strikes midnight. As the tale goes, this burning ritual lets Ecuadorians forget the past and focus on a fresh start.

9. AUSTRALIA // SYDNEY FIREWORKS DISPLAY

A fireworks display on New Year's Eve in Sydney, Australia.
James D. Morgan/Getty Images

As one of the first countries to celebrate New Year's Eve, Australians kick off the festivities with a major bang—to the tune of seven firework-filled barges. The annual 12-minute show—one of the world’s largest fireworks displays—dazzles more than 1 million spectators who gather along the waterfront, with the beautiful Sydney Opera House as its backdrop. They even host an earlier fireworks show, at 9 p.m., for any little Aussies whose bedtime is long before the main event.

10. SOUTH AFRICA // THROWING HOUSEHOLD ITEMS OUT THE WINDOW

To end things on a slightly absurd (and rather unsafe) note, we have Johannesburg, South Africa, where locals ring in the new year by throwing old household items out the window—a quite literal "out with the old" type of symbolism. The tradition has gotten a bit out of hand in recent years, as residents in high-rise buildings have taken to tossing furniture, appliances, bottles and, well, just about anything out the windows. As you’d expect, this tradition comes with its set of annual injuries, but local government is doing its part to keep the New Year’s Eve celebrations safe—even if it’s accompanied by the age-old warning, "Watch out below!"

This Course Will Teach You How to Play Guitar Like a Pro for $29

BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Be honest: You’ve watched a YouTube video or two in an attempt to learn how to play a song on the guitar. Whether it was through tabs or simply copying whatever you saw on the screen, the fun always ends when friends start throwing out requests for songs you have no idea how to play. So how about you actually learn how to play guitar for real this time?

It’s now possible to learn guitar from home with the Ultimate Beginner to Expert Guitar Lessons Bundle, which is currently on sale for $29. Grab that Gibson, Fender, or whatever you have handy, and learn to strum rhythms from scratch.

The strumming course will teach you how to count beats and rests to turn your hands and fingers into the perfect accompaniment for your own voice or other musicians. Then, you can take things a step further and learn advanced jamming and soloing to riff anytime, anywhere. This course will teach you to improvise across various chords and progressions so you can jump into any jam with something original. You’ll also have the chance to dive deep into the major guitar genres of bluegrass, blues, and jazz. Lessons in jam etiquette, genre history, and how to read music will separate you from a novice player.

This bundle also includes courses in ear training so you can properly identify any relative note, interval, or pitch. That way, you can play along with any song when it comes on, or even understand how to modify it into the key you’d prefer. And when the time comes to perform, be prepared with skilled hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, trills, vibrato, and fret-tapping. Not only will you learn the basic foundations of guitar, you’ll ultimately be able to develop your own style with the help of these lessons.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There's more than one Independence Day in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced enslaved people were now free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the nation. Here's what you should know about the historic event and celebration.

1. Enslaved people had already been emancipated—they just didn’t know it.

The June 19 announcement came more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. So technically, from the Union's perspective, the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were already free—but none of them were aware of it, and no one was in a rush to inform them.

2. There are many theories as to why the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t enforced in Texas.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

News traveled slowly back in those days—it took Confederate soldiers in western Texas more than two months to hear that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. Still, some have struggled to explain the 30-month gap between Lincoln’s proclamation and the enslaved people’s freedom, leading to speculation that some Texans suppressed the announcement. Other theories include that the original messenger was murdered to prevent the information from being relayed or that the federal government purposely delayed the announcement to Texas to get one more cotton harvest out of the enslaved workers. But the real reason is probably that Lincoln's proclamation simply wasn't enforceable in the rebel states before the end of the war.

3. The announcement actually urged freedmen and freedwomen to stay with their former owners.

General Order No. 3, as read by General Granger, said:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

4. What followed was known as “the scatter.”


Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr // No known copyright restrictions

Most freedpeople weren't terribly interested in staying with the people who had enslaved them, even if pay was involved. In fact, some were leaving before Granger had finished making the announcement. What followed became known as "the scatter,," when droves of former enslaved people left the state to find family members or more welcoming accommodations in northern regions.

5. Not all enslaved people were freed instantly.

Texas is a large state, and General Granger's order (and the troops needed to enforce it) were slow to spread. According to historian James Smallwood, many enslavers deliberately suppressed the information until after the harvest, and some beyond that. In July 1867 there were two separate reports of enslaved people being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose enslaved people were only freed after his hanging in 1868.

6. Freedom created other problems.

Despite the announcement, Texas slave owners weren't too eager to part with what they felt was their property. When freedpeople tried to leave, many of them were beaten, lynched, or murdered. "They would catch [freed slaves] swimming across [the] Sabine River and shoot them," a former enslaved person named Susan Merritt recalled.

7. There were limited options for celebrating.

A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
2C2KPhotography, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When freedpeople tried to celebrate the first anniversary of the announcement a year later, they were faced with a problem: Segregation laws were expanding rapidly, and there were no public places or parks they were permitted to use. So, in the 1870s, former enslaved people pooled together $800 and purchased 10 acres of land, which they deemed "Emancipation Park." It was the only public park and swimming pool in the Houston area that was open to African Americans until the 1950s.

8. Juneteenth celebrations waned for several decades.

It wasn't because people no longer wanted to celebrate freedom—but, as Slate so eloquently put it, "it's difficult to celebrate freedom when your life is defined by oppression on all sides." Juneteenth celebrations waned during the era of Jim Crow laws until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the Poor People's March planned by Martin Luther King Jr. was purposely scheduled to coincide with the date. The march brought Juneteenth back to the forefront, and when march participants took the celebrations back to their home states, the holiday was reborn.

9. Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday.

Texas deemed the holiday worthy of statewide recognition in 1980, becoming the first state to do so.

10. Juneteeth is still not a federal holiday.

Though most states now officially recognize Juneteenth, it's still not a national holiday. As a senator, Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday, though it didn't pass then or while he was president. One supporter of the idea is 93-year-old Opal Lee—in 2016, when she was 90, Lee began walking from state to state to draw attention to the cause.

11. The Juneteenth flag is full of symbolism.

a mock-up of the Juneteenth flag
iStock

Juneteenth flag designer L.J. Graf packed lots of meaning into her design. The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the enslaved people and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting "new star" on the "horizon" of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people.

12. Juneteenth traditions vary across the U.S.

As the tradition of Juneteenth spread across the U.S., different localities put different spins on celebrations. In southern states, the holiday is traditionally celebrated with oral histories and readings, "red soda water" or strawberry soda, and barbecues. Some states serve up Marcus Garvey salad with red, green, and black beans, in honor of the black nationalist. Rodeos have become part of the tradition in the southwest, while contests, concerts, and parades are a common theme across the country.