New Year's Gifting Traditions from around the World

Jan 05, 2024Liza Mirelman

As the calendar turns a fresh page, people worldwide come together to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Alongside the jubilant festivities and resolutions, the tradition of gift-giving forms a central part of welcoming the forthcoming year. However, the manner, timing, and significance of these gifts vary widely across different cultures and countries. Let's embark on a global journey to uncover the rich tapestry of New Year's gifting traditions.

 

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1. China - Red Packets (Hongbao) for New Year's Gifting

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, marks a time of family reunions and symbolic customs. One such tradition involves the exchange of red packets or "hongbao."


These red envelopes, often adorned with golden characters symbolising good fortune, are filled with money and gifted to children and unmarried individuals. The red colour represents luck and wards off evil spirits, adding a vibrant hue to the celebratory atmosphere of New Year's Gifting.

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2. Scotland - First-Footing

 

In Scotland, the first person to set foot in a household after midnight on New Year's Eve is known as the "first-footer." This tradition holds that the first-footer brings luck to the household for the year ahead. They often carry symbolic gifts like coal for warmth, shortbread for sustenance, or whisky for good cheer for New Year's Gifting.


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3. Japan - Oseibo and Otoshidama

 

In Japan, the New Year is a time for expressing gratitude and goodwill. Oseibo, the tradition of  New Year's Gifting in December, expresses thanks to those who have supported you throughout the year. Otoshidama, on the other hand, involves giving money to children in decorative envelopes, fostering a sense of generosity and appreciation.

4. Russia - Ded Moroz and Snegurochka


Russian New Year's gifting traditions often involve the magical figures of Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden). These characters bring gifts to children on New Year's Eve, spreading joy and enchantment throughout the land.

Ded Moroz

5. India - Diwali Gifting and Pongal


While New Year's Gifting traditions vary across different regions and calendars in India, the tradition of gifting holds significance. During Diwali, the festival of lights, families exchange sweets, dry fruits, and decorative items. In South India, Pongal, a harvest festival, involves presenting colorful gifts like clothes and sweets to express affection and gratitude.

6. Mexico - The Tradition of Eating Grapes


In Mexico, a quirky yet delightful New Year's Gifting tradition involves eating twelve grapes at midnight—one for each stroke of the clock. Each grape represents a wish for the upcoming months, embodying hopes for prosperity, love, and happiness.

7. Germany - Bleigießen (Lead Pouring) for New Year's Gifting


German New Year celebrations often include the practice of Bleigießen, which involves melting small lead shapes over a flame and then dropping them into cold water. The resulting shapes are interpreted to predict fortunes for the year ahead. This tradition is often accompanied by the exchange of small gifts and good wishes.

8. Brazil - Flowers for Iemanjá


In Brazil, particularly in coastal regions, New Year's Eve is a celebration dedicated to Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea. Locals gather at beaches, offering flowers and small gifts to the ocean as a New Year's Gifting tradition, seeking blessings for the upcoming year.

9. Spain - Eating 12 Lucky Grapes


In Spain, as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, the tradition involves eating twelve grapes—one with each chime of the clock. Each grape represents good luck for the twelve months ahead. It's believed that successfully consuming all twelve grapes within the final twelve seconds of the year will bring prosperity and fulfillment.

10. Italy - Throwing Old Items Out the Window


In some regions of Italy, particularly in Naples, New Year's Eve sees the quirky tradition of throwing old items out of windows to make space for the new. This act symbolises leaving behind the past and embracing the fresh start of the upcoming year. Some may also gift small red underwear as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for New Year's Gifting.

11. Iran - Yalda Night Gifting


In Iran, the winter solstice, known as Yalda Night, marks the longest night of the year. Families gather, enjoy traditional foods, recite poetry, and exchange gifts such as fruits, nuts, and sweets. Pomegranates and watermelons are especially popular with New Year's Gifting due to their symbolism of health and prosperity.

12. Philippines - Round Shaped Foods and Coins


In the Philippines, round shapes symbolize prosperity for the coming year. Families prepare round fruits and serve circular foods for New Year's Gifting like noodles to signify long life. Additionally, placing coins in pockets or wallets as New Year's gifts symbolises wealth and financial abundance.


These diverse New Year's gifting traditions highlight the beauty of cultural diversity and the significance of expressing love, appreciation, and hope as one year transitions into the next. Regardless of the customs, the essence of gift-giving remains universal—a gesture that transcends language barriers, symbolizing goodwill and fostering connections between individuals and communities worldwide.

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