12 New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Are you trying to push Covid-19 behind you? I am. Especially since I’m awaiting a test to see if I’m positive or not. Hopefully, not. A family member who tested positive is asymptomatic but everyone in the household decided to get a test.

So, while we’re waiting and isolating, I’m reading and writing. With New Year’s rapidly approaching, and the annual group festivities out the window, I found these traditions from around the world that you can do while isolating or semi-isolating.

Traditions are important, to me, because they give a feeling of continuity and security. Through the decades, my traditions have changed from parties to fancy dinners out, to family dinners, movies with my teens, and the past few years to watching the ball drop on television or YouTube.

This year, I’m saying good riddance to 2020 and adopting a couple of rituals from other countries to celebrate and embrace the new year.


From the land of Tango, they celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bowl of beans. People believe that eating beans before the clock strikes midnight means they will have good luck in their careers in the year ahead. (I think this one is a practical joke, myself, if you get my drift).

Costa Rica:

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This is a tradition where you get your last steps in for the evening. It’s tradition to grab a suitcase and run around the block in the hopes of traveling in the new year. This is to be done at midnight.

Uh, no. This one is not for me. I’d be traveling to the hospital from slipping on wet concrete or dog poop.


A bit of travel, but only from a chair to the floor. Just before midnight, stop what you’re doing and get on a chair to execute the jump like a Dane would. If you don’t jump, it’s said that you’ll bring bad luck for the following year, so please, I’m begging you — do not forget to jump. If you’re a Dane. If you’re not, it’s optional.


A bit of fire and smoke: People head outside to burn effigies that symbolize the year. By lighting the effigy on fire, you’re letting the bad of the year go and moving onto the next.

Do you think a CoVid piñata would suffice? What would you burn in effigy?


Berliners-German Doughnuts

Yum, doughnuts. Germans enjoy a traditional treat of jam-filled, and sometimes liquor-filled, “Pfannkuchens” in Berlin and “Berliners” everywhere else in Germany. Sometimes, a donut may contain a practical joke, like mustard instead of jam, which is considered by some to be bad luck. They also dine on marzipan pigs for good luck on New Year’s Eve — which they also call Sylvesterabend.


The simplest tradition involves onions. Lots of them. On a string. On their door to encourage growth. They make up for this ritual by baking a vasilopita on New Year’s Day. A coin is hidden in the cake. Whoever finds the coin is said to have a year of good luck. (I hope they use a fork for the cake and don’t bite into a piece).


Photo by Donna Hamlet on

Single women of Ireland place sprigs of mistletoe under their pillows on New Year’s night in the hope that it will bring them better luck and a future husband. (I am on a quest now for mistletoe).


Nengajo Cards

Yes, finally food items. Japanese tradition of eating Tosikoshi Noodles or “year-crossing” soba, which can symbolize having a long and fortunate life along with a clean break from the year.

On New Year’s Eve, there is also a tradition in the Buddhist temples. They ring their bells 108 times to welcome Toshigami, the New Year’s God. A nice gesture is sending thank-you cards called nengajo that wish a Happy New Year and give thanks to friends and relatives.


More food, lots of it, too. In the U.S, we (Americans of Mexican ethnicity or Chicanos or Latinos/Latinx) eat up the last of the Christmas tamales as part of a big dinner.

In some parts of Mexico, the dinner celebration also includes Bacalaó which is salted cod. Also followed by eating twelve grapes for twelve wishes (a tradition in Spain), fireworks, and sparkling wine.

Puerto Rico:

More food. Latinx enjoy food and family and celebrations together. Traditional food is served like arroz con gandules, roasted pig, pasteles, coquito, pitorro, rice pudding or tembleque.

If you’ve never had coquito, you’re missing out. This rummy, creamy, coconut drink recipe can be found on LiYun Alvarado’s website (no relation, but friends).

In Puerto Rico, people throw a bucket of water out of their windows to drive away evil spirits. They also sweep the house and yard clean. Brushing out the old to make room for the new sounds right to me.


Grab a piece of paper, write down your wishes for 2021, and light the paper on fire. (stick to Post-It size). Once it’s stopped burning, sprinkle the wish-filled ashes into a glass of champagne and drink up after the clock strikes midnight. (Uh, no. I’m not ruining a perfectly good glass of champagne).


Photo by Luiz M. Santos on

Now, this is easy and healthy (unless you have diabetes; in that case stick to 8 grapes). Las Doce Uvas de Suerte (the 12 grapes of good luck) are placed in a bowl or cup. When the clock strikes midnight, start downing the grapes, one at a time. You must finish in a minute.

For bonus points: A pair of red underwear can bring you a new year of love, while yellow may bring joy and fortune.

Several Latin American countries do grapes and underwear. I’m making sure my red ones available. I’m thinking of wearing yellow ones on top, too.

So, there you have it. Twelve traditions from around the world.

I’d love to hear about your traditions, especially from countries not listed.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy New Year’s Eve whatever you do.

Inspiration, Jr. Day

Ordinary People become Extraordinary Social Change Leaders

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

I’m presenting an act to you, without leaving your desk or chair: Signing a petition.

The following stories are close to my own heart and experiences: childhood poverty, unaffordable insulin costs, and climate change. They may be close to yours too. These petitions and content are from

“Today, to honor Martin Luther King Jr., we celebrate all the social justice leaders who followed in his wake. The fight for equality has made tremendous steps forward since the March on Washington in 1963. And there is more work to be done.

Here are a few of their stories:

Fighting for affordable health care is a social justice issue

Richard’s fight for fairness is personal. His son, Trevon, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 4, and it rocked their family. Trevon’s survival now depends on regular doses of insulin. But even with good health insurance, families like theirs struggle to pay for the expensive medication.

Richard’s petition is asking state lawmakers to cap the price of insulin. And he’s a part of an even larger movement of changemakers with the same mission. As Martin Luther King Jr. noted, the fight to fix the health care system is a fight against inequality.

Jerome is a remarkable 17-year-old leader in the youth climate movement. Every Friday, he goes on strike in front of the White House to demand lawmakers act before it’s too late.

Jerome has started multiple petitions related to the climate movement. And he’s signed many, many more. His Friday strikes in D.C. echo the lessons of civil disobedience that Martin Luther King Jr. taught previous generations.

What can a U.S. President do to solve childhood poverty? It’s been 20 years since presidential candidates on the debate stage were asked the question. As we move closer to the 2020 election, Israel thinks it’s time the public gets an answer.

At the core of Israel’s petition: Make sure the United States is committed to ending childhood hunger, poverty, and homelessness. Israel is a true social justice leader fighting to make the world a safer place for all.

These extraordinary leaders are taking social change forward. And each started with one simple first step: they started a petition.

Through collective action, they’re bringing fairness, equity, and justice to their communities. Please sign and share their petitions today to help celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s lasting impact.”

If you share the petitions on social media, you expand their range. That’s also an act of service.

Thank you for reading and signing.

Creativity, Inspiration, Nature, Self Care

A Surfer’s Haiku

My beach

The title’s a bit misleading. I’m neither a surfer nor did a surfer create this poem.

I am fortunate to live close to several beaches in Southern California. Most coastal Californian’s can tell you that the weather at the beach, especially in the last decade, is unpredictable.

Today, on a January afternoon, the temperature rose to 70 degrees with little wind. The sun shone hot on my patio when I stepped outside, geared up with my gloves and electrical hedger. Perspiration moistened the brim of my hat before I got started trimming. I hesitated.

Born and raised in this area, I can smell the sea air on most days. My thoughts turned to the ocean breeze a mere six miles away. I could cut the last three overgrown bushes, or I could go with the first impression of what I’d rather be doing. I followed my gut and grabbed a beach towel, my journal, and my water bottle shouting ‘back soon’ to my daughter.

Many more people had the same idea by the looks of the beach parking lot, but I found a large patch of cool sand on a knoll. The roar of the ocean waves, punctuated by kid’s delighted screams, were only outdone by equally excited dogs.

The mid-day sun glassed the ocean, making my eyes squint to watch intrepid sailboats and marvel at brave surfers.

surfing spot

Scientists say the negative ions of the ocean air calm the brain, and walking barefoot grounds us to the earth. This must be so.

Soon, creativity took over, and I thought of a haiku.

The beach beckons,

blazing blue,

oceans roar

an invitation to surf.

I’ll grant you this isn’t a ‘true’ haiku of 5/7/5 syllables per line, but it’s an example of nature inspiring creativity.

Scientists also say that getting outdoors and connecting with the earth will help your mental well-being.

I wrote a few pages in my journal, took a nap on the sand and listened. Nature nurtured me, and don’t we all need that from time to time?

Think about what nurtures you and go out and live it.

The hedges can wait.

Lazy afternoon at the beach

Inspiration, poetry

What are Your Yes’s and No’s for 2020?

Photo by Denise Karis


Re-reading my 2018 journal entry, I see that I wrote: “I am content.”

In 2019, I did a lot of stuff, traveled a few places, wrote a whole lot, read 37 books, spent too much time on Netflix, and laughed a lot.

I hope to do more of the same in 2020.

Another entry that I read in my reflection is this, a part of a poem by Esther Cohen, Writer, and Poet in New York City. I loved the intent then, and now. I say ‘YES’ to this:


I’ll try instead to hear more music,

to open my arms wider,

to read more

of other people’s beautiful sentences

and write a few myself.


For 2020, Ms. Cohen wrote a few verses of what she won’t do, which made me laugh because I’m like-minded. Here’s an excerpt:

I will not sign up for a Tai Chi class

even though more or less everyone

says it’s a Good Idea.  Tried a few times.

No dice.


I will not stop eating

gluten, sugar, and everything else white.


So, ‘NO’, I will not go on Keto, or take Pilates, or keep up with Facebook or Instagram, or be unkind, or burn myself out, or burn someone else out.

‘YES,’ I will read, I will write most days, I will take a chance, visit abroad, hike a little more, binge Outlander Season 4 and whatever else I love on Netflix/Hulu, and I will partake of dark chocolate and red wine.

I like the simplicity of saying ‘YES’ to ideas/actions and ‘NO’ to others, especially without guilt or anger.

Now go fill a few lines in a notepad with “I’m saying YES to:” and “I’m saying NO to:”

Here’s to the YES’s and to the NO’s. May you be filled with light, love, and laughter!

photo by Jamie Street for