How do people from different cultures celebrate the festive season? Our Language tutors provide some great insights into holiday traditions around the world!

Brazil – New Year’s Eve

Festive season article_brazilWe all know that the New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is the most celebrated one in the whole world. Millions of people from several places around the world meet up and experience the majestic fireworks across kilometres of beaches all around Rio de Janeiro’s shores, especially in Copacabana. Members of the gay community are found at the location since Rio is considered one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. The joy of the New Year’s celebration Rio-style is filled with parties and amazing experiences that will shock you if you have not yet experienced something like that before. However, there are some important aspects of the celebration that tourists might be missing out, which makes this a genuine Brazilian New Year’s style.

Everybody wears white clothes on 31 December.

For the New Year’s Eve in Rio, lentils are very important staples. By midnight, you have to eat 7 raisins. Do not throw out the seeds though. Keep them in your wallet and you will surely have money in that wallet all the time.

Iemanja is a popular goddess in the Brazilian myths and she is the deity that has control over the waters. It is important to appease her with gifts such as flowers on New Year’s Day or the day before. If you are on the beach, light some candles and throw flowers toward the sea. There are some that make a small flotation device to put in bouquets of flowers as well as material goods. They say that if the goods were sent back, they were not accepted. It is fine. You can try it out again next time! It is a very spiritual thing based on the past and this tradition has been in existence even before the country had transformed Christianity in the predominant religion.


The Netherlands – Oudejaarsavond en Nieuwjaarsdag

Festive season article_NetherlandsIn the Netherlands, it’s still tradition to light your own fireworks or shoot calcium carbide and eat o, a traditional Dutch delicacy – deep fried fluffy bread, sometimes filled with raisins. These small fried doughnut balls are made from simple ingredients of flour, eggs, apple, milk and yeast. Normally enjoyed warm with some sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. Personally, I prefer the raisin or sultana filled oliebollen. The raisins contribute to different texture and give some more taste and crunchiness to the oliebollen.

I am even more a fan of appelflappen (small deep-fried pies filled with apple)which are also traditional for the New Year’s celebration. They feel lighter than the oliebollen and are so tasty warmed up in the oven. The whole house smells of warm apples. It brings me back to my childhood, when I came to the Netherlands just once or twice a year and on the 30th morning I woke up in my grandparents’ house fraught with this familiar sweet fragrance.


Russia – Russian New Year’s Eve

Festive season article_russiaDuring the Soviet era, New Year’s was celebrated instead of Christmas, but Christmas is now regaining importance. While Christmas is observed on 7 January, Russian New Year’s Eve has significant celebrations occurring all over the country in recognition of the holiday. There are actually two New Year holidays celebrated in Russia, with the “Old” New Year celebrated on 14 January according to the Julian or Orthodox, calendar. This is the smaller of the two holidays and Russians usually spend the day with family.

The “New” New Year celebrations occur as most would expect on 31 December and 1 January. To celebrate this holiday, many Russians attend concerts or fireworks displays, with the largest located at the Red Square. On 31 December, most families have a very late dinner including Russian salads, herring, and sparkling wine. A short presidential address comes on TV at 11:55 pm local time in each of Russia’s time zones and the president reflects on achievements from the last year. At midnight, the Kremlin Spasskaya Clock Tower chimes and the Russian national anthem begins. Now is when the festivities really begin! Russians welcome the New Year by saying, “S Novim Godom!” (С Новым годом!)

The Russian Santa, Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), visits children to pass out gifts on New Year’s Day, bringing along his granddaughter Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden), to help him. Rather than having Christmas trees, families decorate a New Year’s tree, called a Novogodnaya Yolka and it is left up to celebrate both New Year’s holidays.


South Korea – End of Year Nationwide Ritual

Festive season article_South KoreaOn 31 December, special traditional bell-tolling ceremonies take place in various cities of Korea nation-widely at midnight to ring out the old year and ring in the new. Each bell is tolled 33 times in total, which originated from the old system of the Joseon Dynasty, when the four gates of the capital were opened by tolling the Bosingak bell 33 times each morning.

In central Seoul, several big celebrities of the year ring the Bosingak Belfry in Jongro surrounded by cheering Seoul citizens. Busan, the largest port city and the second largest city in Korea, holds a bell-ringing ceremony amid tens of thousands of Busan people in Mt. Yongdu park.

Similar bell-ringing ceremonies are also held in Daegu‘s National Debt Repayment Movement Park, Daejeon’s Nammun Square, Uljin‘s Mangyangjeong Pavilion, Yeongdeok‘s Samsa Marine Park and major Buddhist temples across the nation.



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