Odd if you think about it, Americans celebrate the coming of the New Year by … dropping things. We drop the ball in New York. North Carolinians drop a possum. Wisconsin drops a carp. And, in Mobile, Alabama, they drop the world’s largest MoonPie … from 34-stories high—and, for some reason, 60,000 people actually showed up for this last year.
While other countries think we’re insane for standing in a crowded square for 12 hours just to watch a sparkly ball—or carp or possum or MoonPie, for that matter—fall, they’ve got their own weird New Year’s traditions that pale in comparison to a falling MoonPie.
is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.
1. Argentina; 2. El Salvador; 3. Germany; 4. Spain; 5. Ecuador; 6. Russia; 7. Switzerland; 8. Romania; 9. Belarus; 10. Peru
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Argentina: Women wear brand-new pink panties to attract love. We don't get it. It doesn't seem hard for women to find love in Argentina; just one night at a tango in Buenos Aires and any sane man will fall in love at least three times.
Photo by Helga Weber, CC BY-ND
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El Salvador: Crack an egg in a glass at midnight and leave it on the windowsill overnight. Whatever it looks like in the morning, that's what your fortune will bring next year. We're just wondering what it means if the egg is runny …
Photo by JFXie, CC BY-ND
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Germany: Only the Germans would find humor in a 50-year-old British comedy sketch that even the Brits don't find funny. The sketch "Dinner for One" is about a lonely woman's 90th birthday dinner. And this is what they watch on New Year's Eve. You can see the humor already, right?
Photo by picture alliance / United Archive
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Spain: Almost like an easier version of "Chubby Bunny," at the dawn of the New Year, Spaniards fill their wineglass with 12 grapes and then devour them as fast as they can. Apparently, grapes bring good luck. But the wine doesn't?
Photo by JaulaDeArdilla, CC BY-NC-ND
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Ecuador: Instead of setting off fireworks, Ecuadorians just set things on fire. At the turn of the new year, Ecuadorians stuff scarecrow effigies with all of the "bad" from the previous year—photos of exes, credit card statements, etc.—and then burn it, beginning the next year with a clean slate (and without a bank statement they may later need).
Photo by Mor, CC BY-NC
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Russia: In Lake Baikal in Siberia, locals welcome the new year by cutting a hole in the ice over the lake and diving to the bottom while carrying a "New Year's Tree." As if they weren't cold enough already.
Photo by Marco Fieber, CC BY-NC-ND
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Switzerland: As a child, few incidents are more traumatic than the time your Dairy Queen chocolate-dipped-in-chocolate tumbled to the concrete, ruining an entire day. In Switzerland, that's just called New Year's Eve. The Swiss celebrate by dropping mounds upon mounds of ice cream onto the ground all night. They say it brings abundance and good fortune. It also brings tears to every child's eyes.
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Romania: A grisly tradition, Romanians in the region of Moldavia dance around in bear costumes to ward off evil, welcoming the New Year. Thankfully, the townspeople stopped using real bears.
Photo by bejan ovidiu (poza personala), CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons
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Belarus: All Belarusians care about is who will be getting married first in the New Year. Rather than asking engaged women, the Belarusians ask a rooster. All the single ladies–instead of putting their hands up–place corn in front of their home, and, from whichever home the bird eats, that's the woman who'll marry first. Basically, women in Belarus actually trust a man who thinks with his cock.
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Peru: The Festivus "Feats of Strength" is a reality in the Peruvian village of Takanakuy. The town likes to start the incoming year with a clean slate ... so they fist fight to settle their differences.
Photo by Alberto Monteverdi, CC BY-NC-ND