Fireworks in London

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Traditions

Hello everyone! Today is New Year’s Eve and the year 2017 is just about to begin! I am sure most of you will follow various Spanish traditions tonight, but… Aren’t you curious about how people celebrate these special days in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland or Germany, for instance?

We looked for information and asked some abroad students too, who told us about the most unique traditions and superstitions in their countries. So, if you are interested, continue reading 😉


In Scotland, The New Year’s Eve is known as ‘Hogmanay’. The name comes from a kind of oatcake that was typically given to children on New Year’s Eve.

On this day, many people would choose to spend the night with friends or family. Also, in Edinburgh, a festival is celebrated typically from the 28th of December to the 2nd of January. On the night of the 31st of December a huge party takes place in the city, the Edinburgh Castle’ cannon would be fired at the stroke of midnight, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. They would typically sing the ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (The good old days) based on a poem by the Scottish writer Robert Burns in 1788.

[1] ‘Auld Lang Syne’
[1] ‘Auld Lang Syne’

From midnight on, the tradition of ‘first footing’ takes place. Scottish people have various superstitions as they believe the first person to cross their home threshold would determine the fate of the people living there for the new year. Typically, a dark haired man or a stranger would bring good luck. First footers would also bring gifts such as a coin or salt representing prosperity, bread, for food, coal for warmth or whisky to represent cheer, and in many places people would wish one another ”Lang may your lum reek” (hope your chimney will smoke for a long time).

[2] ‘First footing’
[2] ‘First footing’


In England, the New Year’s Eve is not widely celebrated as Christmas but some traditions are still observed. Some people would celebrate the end of the year with their family and friends and others would go to parties, pubs or clubs, especially the young people.

As a fairly recent tradition they would celebrate a big party in London. On TV, they would forecast one of the four clocks on the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster to count down the last seconds of the year, and afterwards, they would kiss at 12 o’clock, toast with champagne or sparkling wine and have fireworks or watch the fireworks taking place in London on TV. They would also do resolutions for the New Year.

[3] Fireworks in London
[3] Fireworks in London

More traditionally, at the stroke of midnight, people would open the back door to let the bad things and the old year out and, in some parts of England, the tradition of first footing also takes place. They would ask the first black haired man to cross the door and the visitors would leave the house using the back door for good luck.

On New Year’s day, the celebrations in London would continue with a huge New Year’s Day parade and most people would typically have a ‘roast dinner’ with their family: meat, vegetables, potatoes and maybe a special dessert and would watch special editions of popular TV programs and programs reviewing the last year.

While some begin the year in such a quiet way, in many coastal towns (in England and other parts of the United Kingdom, as well as in Ireland) people have the tradition to go to the sea at the morning for a New Year’s Day swim! Some may even wear fancy costumes!!

[4] New Year's Day swim
[4] New Year’s Day swim
[5] New Year's Day swim
[5] New Year’s Day swim


In Wales, the New Year’s Eve is called ‘Nos Galan’.

Many celebrations take place at Cardiff castle and Cardiff City Hall, they have fireworks, live music and organise fun-fairs and many other activities.

The tradition of first footing is also typical. It is considered that if the first footer is a woman and a man opens the door is considered bad luck, and if the first footer to cross the threshold in the New Year is a red head, it also represents bad luck.

Another interesting belief is that you should pay all your debts before the New Year begins, and if you don’t do this, it would mean a whole new year of debt!

[6] To-do-list
[6] To-do-list

On New year’s day, called ‘Dydd Calan’, children would get up early to visit their neighbors and sing songs. They would typically be given coins, mince pies, and sweets for singing. This tradition of giving gifts and money is called ‘Calennig‘. Here you can listen to a typical Calennig rhyme!



In Ireland, the New Year’s Eve is called ‘Oíche Chinn Bliana’ and the New Years day is known as ‘Lá Caille’ or ‘Lá Bliana Nua’.

Also in Ireland, many people go to dinners and parties in private homes, pubs or clubs for New Year’s Eve. At the stroke of midnight there may be fireworks and music to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. Then, New Year’s Day parades are held in many towns and cities on the 1st of January. A large parade is held in Dublin.

As an old tradition, people would clean their homes, put fresh sheets on their beds, and stock up on food and other household supplies. They believe this would bring them good luck, and a fresh and prosperous start to the New Year.

[7] Cleaning for the new year
[7] Cleaning for the new year

Another funny tradition is that at the stroke of midnight they would bang on the walls and doors of the house with Christmas bread to chase the bad luck out of the house and invite the good spirits in.

[8] Irish Christmas bread or ‘banging bread'
[8] Irish Christmas bread or ‘banging bread’

In some parts, the tradition of first footing is also considered to make predictions for the New Year’s fate and visitors would typically enter the front door and leave the house using the back door for good luck. Also, New year’s dips are organized in coastal towns in Ireland, that is, short swims in the cold waters early at the morning, as in other parts of the United Kingdom (so cold!)


Finally we turn to Germany, where New Year’s Eve is called ‘Silvester’.

Many parties are held too around the country, but most typically people would invite friends and family to have dinner together at home, for instance many people would eat ‘Raclette’ for dinner and afterwards, they would typically play some board games and funny games for forecasting the future such as distributing fortune cookies or the most typical one called ‘Bleigießen’. They would melt small quantities of lead on a silver spoon above a candle, and they would introduce then the molten lead into a bowl of cold water where it solidifies. Then, they would interpret the shape that the lead finally takes as a symbol for the fortunes of the coming year.

[9] ‘Bleigießen’
[9] ‘Bleigießen’

They would also watch special programs, films and sketches that are broadcast every year. A must-do is to watch the short clip ‘Dinner for one’, a British black and white movie, famous for being the most frequently repeated TV programme ever.

At midnight, people would cheer with sparling wine saying ‘Prost Neujahr’ (informal), do their new year’s resolutions and they would have fireworks afterwards.

Hope you enjoyed reading about these unique traditions!! Make sure you follow some of these to avoid bad luck for the coming year 😉

Spend a great night and Happy New year everyone!!



Contributors who told us about their traditions:

Claudia (Jena, Germany); Emilie (Cambridge, England); John (Nottingham, England); Emyr (Aberystwyth, Wales).

Pictures taken from:




[4] / [5]





Author: A.R.G.

Editor: E.R.S.

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