As the second hand rounds the clock and closes in on the final moments of 2012, the festive spirit in the air intensifies in anticipation of the stroke of midnight. From huge outdoor crowd gatherings to more intimate get-togethers at a friend or family member’s home, most of the world will soon be cheering on the approaching New Year. You may not be familiar with the following five fantastic New Year’s Eve rituals across Europe, as tradition varies from country to country and even from community to community.
Fireball Swinging in Northeastern Scotland
While you have likely heard of Hogmanay, (which is what Scotland calls their New Year’s celebration) the fireball swinging event that takes place in Stonehaven may surprise you. As the Old Town House bell strikes twelve, people stand back and watch as a procession of locals light their homemade torches and then march up and down High Street. Attached to several feet of wire or chain, the flames are swung out and around, creating a crowd pleasing fiery spectacle for all. When the group nears the harbor, any fireballs still aglow are tossed into the water.
Jumping into the New Year in Denmark
In the moment that the year’s last second ticks by, many Danes will leap from a chair. Similar to the superstition as to why a bride is carried over a threshold, the belief is that jumping during this precise time safeguards you from being stuck and dwelling on the previous year’s affairs.
Consuming Twelve Grapes at Midnight in Spain
This tradition began, possibly as early as 1895, when the vineyards in Spain’s Alicante region tried to up their harvest sales. The gimmick worked, and it is now common practice for Spaniards to eat a grape for each chime of the clock as it approaches midnight. By carrying out this ritual, the hope is that it will bring luck and prosperity in the New Year.
Diving into the North Sea in the Netherlands
In 1965 seven people decided to dash into the frigid North Sea as a tribute to the start of bathing season. After a toasty warm sauna session, a favorite northern European winter pastime is to cool off by taking a dip outside in icy cold water. Today, the New Year’s Eve dive takes place at 89 locations scattered throughout the Netherlands, and 36,000 people participated in 2012’s event.
Christmas Tree Burning in Belgium
Burning Christmas trees is an ancient tradition in Belgium. At one time, it was considered bad luck to have greenery of any kind in the home after the holidays. These days, not only is it a New Year’s Eve ritual but it is also an alternative way to dispose of a Christmas tree.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? Good memories, food, entertainment and company can’t be beat! This year, make a New Year’s resolution to travel someplace you have never visited before and book flights to Denmark, Spain, Belgium or anywhere else in the world that sparks your interests.