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New Year, New Traditions: Experiencing Europe

As the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, many parts of the world bid farewell to the old year and usher in the new with the familiar clink of champagne glasses and the dazzling fireworks spectacle. And while iconic landmarks and historic squares transform into stages for grand firework displays and bottles of bubbly are popped in celebration, Europe has a wealth of eccentric customs that add a unique flair to welcoming the dawn of a new year.  

Join us as we explore some of the quirky and endearing traditions that have stood the test of time, creating an enchanting tapestry of rituals that range from warding off evil spirits to predicting the future. Venture into the heart of Europe’s New Year’s festivities, where every tradition tells a story…

Wales: Calennig, a timeless tradition

In the days of old, children roamed from house to house on New Year’s Day, bearing wishes of health and prosperity. Adorned with apples and evergreen leaves, they serenaded doorsteps with rhymes and ‘penillion’ (improvised verses in Welsh usually sung with the accompaniment of a harp) The essence of the ageless tradition of Calennig lives on in many parts of Wales —  children still collect tokens of goodwill on the first day of the year and many households exchange small gifts on new year’s day.

Where to Stay in Wales: Roch Castle

Czech Republic: Looking to the future 

In the Czech Republic, the transition to the new year is marked by an interesting ritual involving apples. Sliced in half, the core’s shape is believed to foretell the fortunes of those present. Will the year ahead be filled with luck and prosperity, symbolised by a star-shaped core, or will challenges arise, as indicated by a cross-shaped core? 

Where to Stay in the Czech Republic: Chateau Liblice

Portugal: Leaping into the New Year

In Portugal, the stroke of midnight isn’t just a moment for fireworks and champagne but a time for symbolic actions. Climbing onto a chair – preferably right foot first with some money in your pockets — and then jumping off signifies leaving behind the old year for a fresh start. It’s customary also to indulge in the unique custom of eating 12 raisins at midnight, each representing a month of good luck and wishes for prosperity.

Where to Stay in Portugal: As Janelas Verdes

Romania: A Folkloric Extravaganza

As the clock ticks toward midnight in Romania, the air is filled with the whimsical melodies of “Capra” — a traditional Romanian dance. Witness performers dressed in goat costumes, dancing and singing as they go door to door to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. From morning rituals with children reciting poems to evening performances featuring adults in traditional attire, the new year in Romania is heavy on folklore and will transport you to a time when traditions were deeply rooted in agricultural livelihoods.

Where to Stay in Romania: Suter Palace

Netherlands: Oliebollen and icy dips

In the Netherlands, the New Year is welcomed with the delightful taste of “oliebollen” and the exhilarating Polar Bear Plunge. Indulge in these traditional deep-fried sweet dough balls before joining over 30,000 people across the country in a daring dive into the icy North Sea, marking the beginning of a fresh start. Fully embrace the Dutch spirit by donning the iconic Unox-branded orange hat as you brave the waters!

Where to Stay in the Netherlands: Hotel Central

Germany: A midnight kiss 

In Germany, the stroke of midnight isn’t complete without a shared kiss, a tradition dating back to the 4th century. This intimate custom is one used the word over and symbolises shared good fortunes for the year ahead. Additionally, embrace the age-old tradition of Bleigießen, where traditionally molten lead – now replaced with safe alternatives in the form of tin or wax – is cast into cold water to predict the future. Let your imagination run wild as you interpret the shapes formed and unlock the secrets of the year to come.

Where to Stay in Germany: Schloss Hertefeld

Ireland: Sweeping Out the Old

In the wild landscapes of Ireland, see in the New Year with a unique tradition – sweeping out the old year. Many households embrace the belief that a thoroughly cleaned home paves the way for good luck in the coming year. Some homes open the doors wide to let out the past and invite in the new. 

Where to Stay in Ireland: Fernhill House Hotel

Greece: Onions and song

In Greece, New Year’s traditions are as charming as they are unique. Families hang onions on their front doors at midnight for good luck, a symbolic gesture marking the promise of prosperity. As the clock strikes 12, Greeks serenade the new year with the famous carol “Arheminia k’arhe Hronia,” filling the night with melody. Some families roll a homemade wheel of bread down a hallway on New Year’s Eve. If the bread lands upright, luck is in store for the coming year; if upside down, superstition warns of an unlucky turn. 

Where to Stay in Greece: Avli Lounge Apartments

Austria: Gifts of prosperity

In Austria, the arrival of New Year’s Eve is marked by gatherings where small, symbolic gifts are exchanged among friends and family. At these celebrations, lucky charms take centre stage, with options ranging from pigs and fungi to clovers and chimney sweeps. Each charming gift holds its unique significance, deeply rooted in Austrian traditions that believe in welcoming good luck and prosperity into the lives of those dear. Embrace the Austrian spirit of “Schwein gehabt” – having had pig – and kickstart the year with symbols of enduring fortune.

Where to Stay in Austria: Villa Bergzauber

Switzerland: Culinary customs

New Year’s Eve is often celebrated in Switzerland with cheese — specifically fondue or Raclette, and bringing friends and family together to enjoy this culinary treat. Another tradition involves dropping ice cream for good luck, adding a whimsical – if a little messy – touch to the festivities. Parts of Switzerland also embrace more sacred traditions. In the town of Appenzell for example, the ritual of Räuchle sees altar boys carrying smoking barrels and burning frankincense to ward off demons and bless the community.

Where to Stay in Switzerland: Schloss Wartegg

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