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It’s December 31st. People everywhere are preparing to gather in their homes with close family and friends, or by hosting parties with lots of champagne, hors d’oeuvres and dancing. The more wild ones will be celebrating at the hottest nightclubs, or by roaming the streets of New York City to catch a glimpse of the Times Square ball drop. But for most of us, if not all, we’re anticipating one crucial moment: when the clock strikes midnight.  We wonder to ourselves who we will kiss, what the New Year will bring, and the changes that we will make for ourselves as we are given a clean slate.

As these questions linger in our minds, we tend to overlook how the rest of the world will be celebrating 2014. Many countries see it as an opportunity for personal growth, just as we do here in America. While it is understandable to be invested in your own personal traditions, it’s also important to be knowledgeable of how other parts of the world celebrate this holiday, as we all enter this New Year together.

Mexico
The people of Mexico will eat a grape with each of the twelve chimes of a clock’s bell while counting down the seconds until midnight. With each grape eaten, they make a wish.

Japan
Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times to welcome Toshigami, the New Year’s God. It is believed he comes down to Earth each New Year. The Japanese also clean their homes and send out nengajos (thank-you cards) to family and friends.

Estonia
People in Estonia believe they should eat up to twelve meals on New Year’s Eve. Supposedly with each meal consumed, the person gains strength for the coming year. However, some of the food is left untouched as it is for the spirits who visit the home on this night.

Belgium
New Year’s Eve is called Sint Sylvester Vooranvand in Belgium. The children write letters to their parents or close relatives and read them aloud before the annual toast at midnight.

Prague
Starting on the 31st, a huge firework display begins at noon and steadily increases until midnight.

Denmark
After eating a full meal with friends and family, a cone-shaped cake known as Kransekage is served, decorated with firecrackers and flags. Once their plates are wiped clean, they throw their dishes on neighbors’ doorsteps as a way of assuring they will have many friends in the year to come.

Finland
“Molybdomancy” is a Finnish New Year’s tradition, which is the act of melting tin in a small pan on the stove and then quickly throwing it into a bucket of cold water. Once the blob of metal cools, it is observed in candlelight to see what fate will bring upon the person in the year to come.

Other interesting traditions: 

  • In Ireland, single women place mistletoe under their pillows to find husbands.
  • Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is known as the Day of Judgment, and it is believed God addresses the fate of every person in the Book of Life. This also takes place in early autumn for two days.
  • In China, the New Year is celebrated in late January with parades and fireworks held in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
  • In Iran, the first day of spring marks the beginning of the New Year.

Regardless of what country you may be celebrating in, there is one belief that we can all agree on as we welcome in the New Year: that it may bring good health, happiness and love upon us all. As you say goodbye to 2013, keep in mind how unified our world truly is on this day. By removing the focus on our own expectations of the year to come, we can acknowledge the many lives that will be celebrating along with us across the globe.

Image via 100 Layer Cake

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