The world’s oddest New Year’s Eve traditions

Two villagers fight in the Takanakuy Festival in Peru
Two villagers fight in the Takanakuy Festival in Peru
Share this article
Have your say

Flying furniture, hanging out at graveyards and fighting your neighbour: some of the stranger traditions that herald the New Year across the globe, as finds

South Africa: Flying furniture in Johannesburg

Residents of a South Africa suburb have cultivated a curious - and rather dangerous - Hogmanay tradition of throwing appliances and furniture out of their windows. Microwaves, irons and even beds are flung from tall buildings in the Hillbrow district of Johannesburg, which local police have been forced to patrol ever since the custom arose some years ago. Despite safety fears which have prompted police to assemble helicopters, dogs and riot squads, residents insist the tradition “creates work” for scrap collectors.

Germany: The forgotten British comedy sketch that has tickled Germans for 50 years

An 11-minute British comedy sketch depicting an upper-class English woman hosting a ‘dinner’ with the help of her butler has been a staple of New Year’s Eve television in Germany for nearly 50 years, despite never being shown in UK Christmas schedules. In fact, its next airing will mark the 50th anniversary of Dinner For One’s first broadcast on Hamburg-based channel Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR). The sketch sees Miss Sophie, an ageing woman, hosting a dinner party for her long-dead admirers. Her butler, James, plays the part of each admirer, drinking their wine and eating their food. Dinner For One is popular in many other parts of Europe as well.

Peru: A punch-up to bring in the New Year

Most New Year rituals, however elaborate, have their roots in the idea of purification and renewal. That’s also true of residents in Santo Tomas, a remote village in Peru nestled 12,000 feet above sea level. But, when villagers take part in the Takanakuy Festival in the New Year, their new year’s resolutions are basically to beat each other up. Without an official judicial system, the festival is the village’s best outlet for settling scores, although many also do it just for fun.

China: Firecracker bombing

Few could claim to celebrate the arrival of a New Year (albeit the Lunar New Year in February 16) in more explosive fashion than residents of Tainan County, China. Locals attending the Chinese Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xiao Jie, expose themselves to beehive firecrackers in the hope that being hit by one or several firecrackers will rid them of bad luck. Aside from motorcycle helmets and basic outdoor clothing, locals - and, increasingly, tourists - wear little protection.

Chile: New Year’s Day of the dead

New Year’s Eve in the small Chilean town of Tulca is a rather more downbeat affair than most in our list. Residents have gathered at the local cemetery on the last day of the year since 1995 to bring in the New Year with deceased relatives. It is believed that the tradition began when one family broke into the cemetery on New Year’s Eve in order to be closer to their father’s grave. In more recent times, the town mayor has inaugurated the event by opening the cemetary gates at 11pm. The event is now attended by approximately 5,000 people every year.