As with any transition time, the New Year is steeped in tradition no matter where you live. Whether you’re planning a quiet night at home with extended family, a trip with friends, or a night on the town with your crew, there are opportunities to inject fun New Year’s traditions into your celebration, meant to usher out the bad luck and welcome in fresh energy and good vibes. Traditional good luck symbols can be incorporated into what you serve, what happens when the clock strikes midnight, or what you do on New Year’s Day.
Ahead are a few of our favorite traditions and the New Year’s Eve invitations to match.
What is a traditional New Year’s Eve dinner?
“A Cracking Good Time” New Year’s Eve dinner invitation by Happy Menocal.
As with any tradition, it varies around the world. In the US, we think of New Year’s as a night to get dressed up and party with friends and family into the evening’s early hours. Get inspired by these globe-trotting ideas for the next celebration.
Looking for more New Year’s Eve party ideas? We’ve rounded up 15 favorites for hosting at home.
Mexican New Year’s Eve: Celebrate Nochevieja
Feast at midnight as they do in Mexico with pozole, tamales, buñuelos for dessert, and Ponch (a punch drink). Serve pan dulce, a cake that’s baked with a lucky coin inserted into the batter. It is believed that anyone who gets the slice with the coin will be the luckiest one in the new year.
On Nochevieja, there are also traditions for saying goodbye to the old year. Some people dress in masks representing año viejo or display small statues adorned with poems or messages that poke fun at el año viejo. Then, the little statues are lit on fire at midnight, to be a despedida (farewell) to the old year.
Japanese New Year’s Eve: Ōmisoka
This Japanese tradition is about thinking of the new year as a truly fresh start. To that end, your to-do list should be completed by the end of the year. (If that’s not possible, there are always bonenkai parties which are about leaving last year’s troubles behind — and we all may have plenty for that.) Ōmisoka involves having a cozy night at home with a small group or family. Ornaments made of pine, bamboo, and plum trees are traditional decor. However, less is more — that’s because your entire house is to be cleaned (and your clothes, too). After you’re finished with your tasks, enjoy the company of your loved ones while enjoying toshikoshi soba, or “year-end noodles,” which are made of buckwheat and lengthier-than-typical soba to symbolize longevity.
French New Year’s Eve: Champagne and oysters
A traditional part of French New Year’s Eve parties is Le Réveillon de la Saint Sylvestre or Le Réveillon du Nouvel An, a feast that often includes oysters and foie gras. The custom alludes to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty who emerged from the ocean on a beautiful oyster shell. You can hold a shuck-your-own party in the backyard (a patio heater or fire pit will keep everyone cozy) or serve them on the half shell nestled in bowls of crushed ice indoors. For a twist on the tradition inspired by the American south, hold an oyster roast accompanied with plenty of bourbon. Just be sure to encourage guests to bundle up or provide hand warmers.
Pop Pod Paperless Post Flyer.
Scottish New Year’s Eve: Hogmanay
Scots traditionally hold bonfires where people swing fireballs on poles (!) that symbolizes the sun in hopes of purifying the year ahead. The next day they practice the tradition of Hogmanay where the first person to enter a home in the New Year brings a small gift for luck.
“Hubble” New Year’s Eve invitation by Paperless Post.
New Year’s Eve in Italy
Lentils are on the menu in Italy on New Year’s Eve, celebrated as the Feast of Saint Sylvester. The coin-shaped legumes ensure good luck. The addition of cotechino, a spicy sausage, or zampone, pig trotter, represents the plentiful land and life’s richness. Pair this hearty meal with Italian sparkling wines like spumante or prosecco.
“It’s Full of Stars!” New Year’s Eve invitation Paperless Post.
What do you do at midnight on New Year’s Eve?
Pop bottles. It’s common to drink Champagne, cava, or prosecco. For a traditional but perhaps under appreciated warmer take on New Year’s cocktail is Wassail, a cider-like punch with English origins or wine mulled with citrus and star anise.
Make noise: noisemakers, Christmas poppers, or fringed party horns or blowers.
Eat grapes. In Spain, it’s traditional to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight to symbolize good luck in the coming year. Pair your grapes with cava.
Break plates. In Denmark, partygoers leap from their chairs at midnight to start January with good luck. They also throw old plates and glasses against the front door to banish bad luck.
Make a mess. Stock up on confetti and tinsel to toss at midnight.
Kiss! As the saying goes: “Kiss the person you hope to keep kissing.”
Sing. “Auld Lang Syne” is based on a poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It’s common to hold hands with the person next to you to form a circle on the dance floor.
Watch the ball drop. Or the pickle if you’re in Mount Olive, NC, or the sardine in Eastport, ME, the conch shell in Key West, FL, or the Big Cheese in Plymouth, WI.
How can I bring good luck on New Years?
Serve New Year’s Day Hoppin John. From the Lowcountry of South Carolina, this dish is a Gullah and Geechee tradition that’s based on a West African pea stew. Enjoyed on New Year’s Day, Hoppin’ John is meant to bring good luck and prosperity — the peas represent coins, and the green stands for bills. Similar traditions also sub in black-eyed peas or Geechee red peas (which create a creamy gravy) and are served over Carolina Gold rice. You can also add pork to Hoppin’ John to increase your good luck or more leafy green vegetables like collards. Some recipes also suggest adding a coin to the pot with the peas or placing a newly-minted coin under a plate for good luck (clean the coin with vinegar first). In general, Hoppin’ John is luckier if you don’t add things that “move backward faster than it moves forward” (like lobsters, crabs, shrimp, or crawfish) since the message is about moving forward.
“Peas on Earth” New Year’s invitation by Paperless Post.
Start a New Year tradition
Volunteer. Make a date with friends and family to volunteer at a soup kitchen, send care packages to deployed service members, shelter a pet in need, or contact your local senior center to see what their needs are at the moment.
Watch a movie with a New Year’s theme. We love When Harry Met Sally, Boogie Nights, or Bridget Jones’s Diary.
“Film Countdown” New Year’s Eve invitation by Paperless Post.
Reflect. Start a journal. Set New Year’s resolutions. Or create a list of things you’d like to do more and less of in the new year.
Get away. Start the year with fresh scenery—book a hotel room for the night in town for a staycation or rent a AirBnB tucked away and curl up next to a fireplace. Bonus points if it doesn’t have a tv or wifi to give you an excuse to unwind.
Have a pajama party. Whether it’s an adult-only boozy pajama party or a family-friendly matching pajama party, it’s a cozy way to ring in a new year.
Host a spa night. Break out the face masks, hair masks, and scrubs. Set out an essential oil diffuser, spa water (water, but make it spa with the inclusion of cucumbers, mint, or sliced fruit), and candles. You can also host a New Year’s Day spa day as you unwind after a night out.
Do a mystery dinner party. In a live-action take on the classic board game Clue there is a murder at the center of the dinner, and guests work together to solve the mystery. They are assigned a character and come in costume. Find a free option online or order a kit with instructions and party tips to get you started.
“Shimmering New Year” New Year card by Rifle Paper Co.; “Making Scenes 2021” card by Cheree Berry.
Armed with traditions old and new, start planning your celebration with a New Year’s Eve invitation, along with helpful tips for New Year’s Eve invitation wording.
Skipping this year or want to reach out to friends and family farther afield that you’re thinking about them? Send New Year greetings instead.