As families and friends in the United States gathered for their New Year’s celebration (being the last in the world to hit the midnight hour), some of the first places to toast in the New Year was Samoa, Tonga and Kiritimati.

In the United States, traditions such as dinners, fireworks, count-downs and dances were among the many ways one could welcome in 2018. Many church members met together for their own hourly watch with prayer times and fellowship but overall Americans have a fairly-normal annual celebration.

In looking at other countries and their New Year traditions, many sound unusual and quite humorous to a Westerner. Denmark shatters their old dishes, while Ecuador burns a paper scarecrow and old photos. Romania and Belgium honor their cows, but in Switzerland they will drop ice cream on the floor as a symbol toward discarding the old. People in Denmark risk climbing up on a chair and jump at the midnight hour, committing themselves to the New Year in a literal sense.

In Chile, elders and children will take their sleeping bags to the cemetery, to be with their deceased loved ones.

Coins are also a specific emphasis of wealth for many countries. Romanians will toss them into the river for luck; In Spain, they eat 12 grapes for 12 months of prosperity; Philippine families eat only round foods on New Years as a representation of coins and wealth, as the year unfolds. Bolivians bake one coin into a cake which is served at their New Year party.

Cleansing water is also used by countries such as Puerto Rico and Thailand. Both toss buckets of water upon one another to wash off the old and to create a newness within. Russians seem to take a radical approach of dipping into the frigid water of lakes or streams.

South America celebrates by wearing colored underwear which designates the wish that is upon their hearts. Red represents the wish for love; yellow or gold is for the hope of wealth; white would bring peace to the soul; green would bring growth and blue would be for tranquility.

As the Japanese utilize bells for the Buddhist belief that it rings true toward the cleanliness and freshness of the air, those in Ireland are tossing white bread into their walls to rid their homes of evil spirits, which may want to cling to the New Year.

Peru has a most interesting idea. By fist-fighting with anyone they have problems with before the New Year happens, they settle their differences with an old-fashion fist fight on Dec. 31, so that all the air is cleared between anyone and forgiveness can reign into their New Year.

Columbian’s carry a suitcase in hopes of traveling in the next year. South Africa tosses an old furniture piece out a window and in Finland a ladle of hot, molten tin is poured into a bucket of cold water to create a solid piece that can be interrupted according to the resulting form.

The French consume pancakes as their New Year feast but Scotland may have the best tradition of anyone. The first person entering their home after midnight on Jan. 1, must bring a gift across the threshold. This guarantees prosperity and happiness to those dwelling within the home and counts for goodness between family and friends.

So Happy New Year world and keep up the celebration.