New Year’s Celebrations around the World

3155595645_0917b748d0_mOne of my female cousins lived right across the street from my grandmother and the two were very close, but on January 1 my grandmother never let her great-niece visit until a male relative had come in the house first. I was relieved when I found out that many others in the world have the same custom. It wasn’t something my superstitious grandmother had made up. There’s actually a name for this custom of welcoming the first male guest on New Year’s Day. It’s called first-foot.

Memories and stories like these are fun to share, especially in an ESL classroom. What traditions are followed in one’s family or one’s country? Where did these ideas come from?

Perhaps you’d like to try a fun activity on the first day you meet with students in the New Year. Let me help you prepare. Please take a look at my New Year’s around the World_handout in PDF. (Or if you prefer a Word document, then use this copy: New Year’s around the World_handout.) A little preparation now will allow you to breeze into the first class in January!





Photo credit: 

“New Year’s Eve at Borovets” by Klearchos Kapoutsis. Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. davidji says:

    That’s interesting. This is the first time I know such a custom.

    1. There are really a lot of New Year’s traditions around the world, so it’s hard to be familiar with them all.
      Happy New Year!

  2. Will Peters says:

    I bet your grandmother had Scottish roots. First-footing is an old Scottish custom, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) traditionally being the most important day in the Scottish calendar – in the old days, the Scottish Calvanist religion didn’t really approve of celebrating Christmas, so people made up for it at Hogmanay.

    First-footing is not so much about welcoming the first vistor to your house, as going and visiting other people’s houses, hoping to be the first through their door (known as the first-foot). But the expression is often used more generally to mean the practice of visiting people after midnight on New Year’s Eve – “We’re going first-footing, are you coming?”. In some country areas this can last for a few days! (January 2 is a holiday in Scotland).

    When first-footing you normally take three things with you – a contribution to everyone’s external warmth (a piece of coal), a contribution to everyone’s internal warmth (a bottle of whicky, of course), and a food contribution – traditonally Scottish shortbread.

    And if the first person to knock on your door after midnight is ‘a tall dark stranger’, then you will have good luck for the year.

    1. Hello and Happy New Year!
      Actually, my grandmother was proudly Polish. 🙂 I don’t know why and where that side of the family picked up that tradition of first-footing, but they arranged in advance which male relatives would make that first visit of the year, so each household would have good luck. I have yet to receive a visitor. We’ll see who it is!

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