New Year's Eve Traditions

With New Year's Eve less than two weeks away, we offer six ways to celebrate.

6. Blade and bubbly

For sheer drama, nothing beats opening a bottle of champagne with a sword. Internet resources advocate striking the back edge of the blade against the rim of the bottle at a 20-degree angle; in our experience, using the sharp edge of the blade at about a 45-degree angle sliced the entire top off smoothly.

What you need:

  • a sword (preferably a short sword with a sturdy blade that has a bit of an edge to it; a large kukri worked well when we tried this)
  • cheap champagne (to practice on)
  • better champagne (to drink)

5. Lead it be

Bleigiessen, or lead-pouring, is a German custom. Melt a small amount of lead, pour it into cold water, and evaluate the resulting shape for clues to your future. Check out some possible interpretations.

What you need:

  • lead (or tin or wax);
  • a small container in which you can melt the lead;
  • a larger container, full of water;
  • a gas stove or other heat source; and
  • tongs to fish the lead out of the water.

4. Let them eat grapes

In many Latin nations, it’s traditional to eat 12 grapes at midnight — some people eat one for each stroke of the clock, while others shove them all in their mouth in the last few seconds of the year; either way, they're said to bring luck.

What you need:

  • grapes — enough to have 12 for each person. (Spring for seedless, unless you want to find dried-up grape seeds stuck all over your floor the next day.); and
  • sandwich baggies, paper cups, or some other container for each person’s grapes.

3. Aim for prosperity

One recurring theme of New Year's celebrations around the world is prosperity. Italians serve lentils on New Year’s Day because the tiny legumes could be said to resemble small coins. In the Philippines, families display heaps of round fruits because they too could be said to look like coins. (Do you notice a pattern here?) Folks in Greece are slightly less metaphorical and bake an actual coin into a loaf of “vasilopita,” a sweet bread, to bring luck to the person who finds it (assuming they don’t choke on it). Check out a recipe for vasilopita here.

2. Unleash your inner Michael Bolton


In some countries, engaging in cathartic acts of benign destruction (carefully supervised, of course) is believed to bring good luck. In Denmark, for example, New Year’s celebrants throw plates at neighbors’ doors to symbolize friendship. In South Africa, Johannesburg residents used to throw their old appliances out the window until police cracked down on the practice a couple of years ago due to an unfortunate incident with a minifridge. And in Panama, effigies of well-known figures — from television characters to politicians — are burned in bonfires.

1. Get out of town 

For last-minute travel deals, try, or

Our top picks — if not for this year, then for next: