... start thinking about New Year's Eve

New Year's is creeping ever closer, so it's time ask yourself the question: What are you going to do? No, seriously, what are you doing to do?

It's hard to keep track of all the traditions that have sprung up around the world, for one thing, and it's even harder to figure out if you'll end up going full American this year or spicing up your New Year's party with some exotic traditions (like eating grapes). The following are some of the more interesting variations on New Year's Eve celebrations.

If you were born and raised in the U.S., you might think our insistence on having fireworks and dropping glass spheres on New Year's Eve is downright normal. But you're just used to it. Here are some of the stranger traditions for the holidays — or at least strange when seen through an American lens.

Brazil. In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, New Year's Eve is all about the lucky underpants. People go for red if they're looking for love and yellow if they're after some extra cash.

Finland. To celebrate the New Year, some Finnish people cast molten tin into containers of water and, when the tin hardens, take its perceived shape as an indicator of how the coming year will go. For instance, a heart or ring shape signifies a wedding, and a pig shape (which is a very specific shape to glean from hardened tin, but we digress) stands for lots of food.

Belarus. Who would have thought this little landlocked country would have the granddaddy of all unusual traditions? On New Year's Eve, unmarried women participate in a game in which piles of corn are placed in front of each one. A rooster is released, and whichever girl's corn pile it goes to first will be the first to marry in the coming year. Meanwhile, the entire population of Brazil looks down at its red underpants and heaves a sigh of great disappointment.

The traditions don't end there. You'd be amazed by how many foods, in different parts of the world, signify good luck, long life or personal fortune. Here are a few of the most interesting.

The Grape-Mongerer. If you want good luck in the coming year, you better like bite-sized fruits. As per tradition, Spaniards gorge on 12 grapes as midnight approaches to ensure prosperity over the next 12 months.

Let's Get it Started. Decide to celebrate in the American South and you'll probably be given some black-eyed peas either on New Year's Eve or Day. Eating the peas is supposed to bring good luck to the consumer, but they're an acquired taste, so make sure they're at home in a good recipe before chowing down.

The Cabbage Patch. In Germany, Ireland and some parts of the U.S., cabbage is eaten because it's green, much like money is green, and so it resembles good fortune. Yum!

Everyone who's anyone knows the melody to "Auld Lang Syne," the 200-plus-year-old Scottish poem by Robert Burns that has become synonymous with ringing in the New Year. But do you know the words? If not, throw your arms around your nearest neighbor's shoulders and start singing these lyrics as soon as the countdown ends.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And old lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll take a cup of kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup!

And surely I'll buy mine!

And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,

And picked the daisies fine;

But we've wandered many a weary foot,

Since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun 'til dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since auld lang syne.


And there's a hand my trusty friend!

And give us a hand o' thine!

And we'll take a right good-will draught,

For auld lang syne.


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