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:

Photo by mentatdgt on

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.

Healing, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, Writing

Heartbreak, Love Potions and Curanderas

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it-Toni Morrison

Writing, especially novels is a long hard road. Sometimes people ask, “Are you finished yet?” “What’s happening with that story you told me about?”

Oh, that story. Well, three years later I’m finished with the Young Adult manuscript and I believe I’m ready for the next step: finding a literary agent or publisher to bring the novel to fruition.

The book is about an eighteen-year-old young woman named Maya who suffers from a heartbreak that is so bad that she, an honors student, ditches school and finds a job selling herbs and potions in a botanica (Botánica Sirena) opened by two curanderas.

Maya’s newfound knowledge of curanderismo (the art of healing) intrigues her but proves disastrous when her novice love potion backfires leaving her ex-boyfriend in love with her mother and her nana’s 75-year-old boyfriend in love with her. 

Her divorced parents are furious with Maya’s behavior as it disrupts the plan they had for her life: valedictorian, university, and a career in politics.

So Maya needs to make things right again but her novice potion is not something the local curanderas can help her with so off to Oaxaca she goes to meet with the Gran Curandera who might be able to help her with an antidote. The trip leads Maya to a journey of self-discovery.

But what is a curandera?

Curanderismo is a healing art and curanderas/os are healers in the Latin American world. For centuries, the Mexican culture has had curanderasSome cultures call these people shamans, or medicine men or women. Some people call them, incorrectly, witches.

Curandera practicing her healing


A curandera/o uses herbs, ointments, and cleansings to cure illness. They also conduct spiritual healings. Sage, sweetgrass, and copal are used to cleanse a house, a room, or a person of evil spirits and negative energy. 

A spiritual cleansing, limpia, and is often used by bunching together selected herbs into a small hand broom. This is whacked across the entire body and removes negative energy. After this, an egg is held above the head, moved around the body, and cracked open into a container which the curandera inspects.

Why an egg? It is believed that an egg has the natural ability to absorb energies around it. Finally, water is spit on the person. I know, sounds strange but this is what happens and there are some variances to the ritual dependent on what the client needs.

The Latin American community believes the curandera has a spiritual calling to heal and they are often descendants of other curanderas.

mayan, healer, maya
Margarita, Mayan Healer

The photo above shows a Mayan healer in Mexico. In the U.S and my experience, the curanderas were usually grandmothers wearing aprons or elderly men in work clothes who conducted their ritual healings in their home or garage. Now they are more likely to work in a botanica which sells candles, oils, herbs, and other items such as amulets.

Using the services of a healer involves a small fee or a barter. This is probably why most Mexicans and Mexican Americans used a curandera. Either a doctor visit was too expensive, wasn’t available, or the doctor dismissed an ailment. 

When I was a kid, most mothers knew of a local curandera. When a mother thought her baby was ill a visit to the curandera would be in order; the likely culprit was mal ojo (the evil eye).

In some countries like El Salvador the infant would be given a red bracelet to ward off mal ojo; in Mexico, the curandera passes an egg over the baby’s head and body.

Herbal remedies from curanderas were brought to the U.S (many were in the Southwest before it was part of the US) and these cures were passed on for generations.

When we were kids my mother didn’t take us to a curandera but she used Vicks Vaporub for fevers and colds. If we vomited or had a stomach ache we drank 7-Up or any other lemon-lime soda. There was a special tea for stomachaches and periods, a rice water mixture for diarrhea, and a few dozen more for colds, coughs, and other illnesses.

The use of candles and ointments are also part of curanderismo. In our house, there was always some candle burning for some ailment, loss, or protection.

The subject of curanderismo is one that has fascinated me so much I had to write a novel featuring curanderas. The story also has alibrejes (spirit animals) and other magic realism elements. Take a look at my storyboard for this novel.

The blue Jaguar is a spirit animal in the novel

And curanderas are just the tip of the iceberg of Mexican healers. There are also specialists for massage and herbs. But that is for another post.

There are websites such as Erika Buenaflor who can give you more information on curanderismo as well as other healing practices. She is a modern day curandera. I wish I had known about her site three years ago when I started my writing project but better late than never.



Disclaimer: This post is not suggesting you use a curandera in lieu of a medical practitioner; that is your own decision.