Kick off the New Year with a new tradition inspired by celebrations around the world. These rituals, including eating ring-shaped treats and (safely) leaping off a chair at the stroke of midnight, will bring luck -- and fun -- into the new year.
All over the world, foods in the shape of a ring are thought to bring good fortune throughout the new year, possibly because they symbolize "coming full circle."
In the South, eating black-eyed peas shows humility and thus invites good fortune. In addition, collard greens and other greens are considered lucky because they look like money.
Some revelers mark the New Year by quickly eating a dozen grapes at midnight. The fruits are said to be a predictor of the year ahead: Each sweet grape represents a good month, each sour grape a less-than-lucky one. Adopt the tradition by threading grapes onto skewers, and serve each in a glass of Champagne just before the countdown.
Many Danish people celebrate the New Year by jumping off chairs at the stroke of midnight. Leaping is said to banish bad luck and bring good fortune into the new year. They also traditionally throw plates at neighbors' doors to symbolize their friendship. The person with the most broken plates is said to have the most friends.
For Hogmanay, the celebration of the Scottish New Year, merrymaking continues for two days. At midnight on January 1, revelers toast friends and family with a glass of whiskey, accompanied by a few heartfelt choruses of Auld Lang Syne, a poignant song written by Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns. After midnight, neighbors go "first footing," exchanging food and drink door to door. According to superstition, if the first visitor to cross your threshold is a tall, dark, and handsome man, the year will be a prosperous one.
The custom of toasting as we know it today originated in medieval England. Back then, the clinking of glasses was accompanied by the exclamation "Waes haeil," Middle English for "Be well." The word "toast," in this context, came along in the 17th century when pieces of spiced, toasted bread were placed in drinks, perhaps to enhance their flavor. Today, people throughout the world toast the New Year.