Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

New Year’s Eve in Western Europe


Great Britain

In England, people believe that the first male visitor to the house, after midnight, is good luck. It is bad luck if this is a woman, or if this man is red or blond haired. This man brings a gift, which could be coal, bread or money, to ensure luck for the family.

Many people make the voyage down to London to celebrate the new year at Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus. Big Ben sends out some powerful chimes when the new year starts, as fireworks go off.


Italians celebrate La Festa di San Silvestro by having a huge feast on New Year’s Eve. Every dinner has lentils, which are supposed to bring prosperity the next year. Other common foods include cotechino, a spiced sausage, and zampone, a stuffed pig’s trotter. Most down set off fireworks in the city center, but Naples is known to throw one of the biggest displays. Italian cities that are situated on the Mediterranean or other bodies of water will hear boats blowing horns at the start of the new year.



In Germany, people would traditionally practice Bleigießen by dropping molten lead into cold water and do fortune telling. If there is a ball, that is a sign of good luck, but if there is a cross, that is related to death.

Click here to watch a video on Bleigießen.

There is also the old superstition of leaving a bit of your food from New Year’s Eve dinner on your plate to hope for a prosperous next year.


Austrians also practice the custom of Bleigießen. They call New Year’s Eve “Sylvesterabend,” the Eve of Saint Sylvester. They make spiced punch, and drink champagne. People go to Midnight Mass, and blow trumpets from church towers at midnight. People kiss when the new year begins.


Belgians call New Year’s Eve Sint Sylvester Voranvond, and they hold parties until midnight. People kiss when the new year starts, and wish good luck to everyone. During New Year’s Day, or Nieuwjaarsdag, children write letters and decorate paper for their parents, and then read it to them.


The French usually celebrate new year’s with their families, throwing huge parties and exchanging presents. This feast is called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, and champagne is common. People dance afterwards, until the new year is announced, when it is time to kiss under the mistletoe. In Southwestern France, people often go to midnight mass, then follow a torchlight to the vineyards so they can drink mulled wine.


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