Equipped with branches of pine trees and cow bell, some "Silvesterchlaus" (New Years Claus) walk toward a farm house in Urnaesch, Switzerland, to offer their best wishes for the new year. After they sing and dance the Silvesterchlaeuse receive food, hot drinks or money. It is believed that a visit by the Silvesterchlaeuse helps drive away evil spirits.
Hardy Dutch swimmers brave the icy North Sea on Jan. 1, 2011, in Scheveningen, Netherlands. In North America, the Polar Bear club helped popularize the tradition of icy plunges in cold, winter months. Bernarr Macfadden, who founded the Coney Island Polar Bear Club in 1903, believed that "a dip in the ocean during the winter can be a boon one's stamina, virility and immunity."
A woman holds an offering of fruits as shamans perform a ritual for good luck for the coming new year in Lima, Peru, on Dec. 29, 2010. In Peru, yellow is considered good luck, and people will often wear yellow underwear on New Year's Eve for luck in the new year. Shamans from around the country attend fairs to perform rituals that include showering subjects with yellow flowers or passing a guinea pig over subjects' bodies
People get hit by firecrackers during the Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival, as part of the Chinese Lantern Festival or "Yuan Xiao Jie," in Tainan County on Feb. 16, 2011. Locals believe bad luck will go away after one is bombed with beehive firecrackers, a tradition that has evolved into a huge tourist attraction. The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year with festivities and celebrations across the island.
Participants perform a fire dragon dance at a temple fair celebrating the Chinese New Year in Beijing on Feb. 6, 2011. The traditional dance of the dragon accompanied by loud drum beats and cymbals is intended to scare away evil spirits in the new year. The celebrations take place over 15 days leading up to the Lunar New Year, which falls on a new moon, and marks the end of the winter season.
Hogmanay fireball swingers illuminate the streets of Stonehaven, carrying on the tradition of welcoming the new year on Jan. 1, 2004. Revelers celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of New Year's Eve, in the small highland coastal town by swinging baskets of fire above their heads. At the end of the procession, the flaming baskets are thrown into the sea. There are two theories on the symbolism of the fireballs. One is that it originates in pagan ceremonies where the fireballs were created to mimic the sun, so that all things living would have the appropriate amount of sunshine. The second is that the fire was created as a way of purification to destroy demons or corruption in the air.
Revelers cheer, confetti falls and the ball drops in Times Square during New Year's celebrations in New York City on Jan. 1, 2011. The first New Year's Eve ball was dropped in Times Square in 1907. It had 100 25-watt light bulbs, spanned five feet in diameter, weighed 700 pounds and was made of iron and wood.
Thai children and foreign tourists spray water at each other on Khaosan road during the Songkran festival in Bangkok on April 12, 2011. Songkran is the Thai New Year which starts on April 13. The weather is at its hottest around this time of year in Thailand and people celebrate by splashing water at each other. This originates from the tradition of pouring fragrant water on Buddha images as a cleansing ritual. The collected "blessed" water would then be poured on family members to help bring good luck.
An Andean woman reads an egg yolk inside a glass of beer during a ritual of predictions at a fair in Lima, Peru, on Dec. 27, 2011. The New Year's fairs have become a popular destination for those seeking good luck or predictions for the coming new year.
Party goers dance in the hot summer sun during the annual New Year's Eve carnival held through the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 31, 2008. The first carnival was held in 2004, inspired by the Rio carnival and is intended to encourage leadership and creative skills among the local communities.
Tibetans celebrate Losar, or Tibetan New Year, at a monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal on March 7, 2011. Losar can be traced back to the pre-Buddhist period in Tibet when Tibetans practiced the Bon religion. A spiritual ceremony would be held every winter, whereby people offered incense to appease the local spirits, deities and protectors. Losar usually falls on the same dates as the Chinese New Year and is usually celebrated over 15 days.
Indian men roll around a temple as they offer traditional Dandajayatra prayers to the god Shiva during a ritual as part of a festival which coincides with the Oriya New Year in Mendhasal, India, on April 13, 2011. The "Danda festival" continues for 13 days. The Oriya New Year is also a celebration of spring. There is not one common New Year's day in Hinduism. Celebrations of the new year vary from region to region.
Dolls of Ekekos, known as the god of abundance, are displayed in a market in Lima on Dec. 30, 2009. People annually flock to the traditional markets searching for lucky charms and spiritual services from witch doctors in order to be blessed prior to New Year's Eve. People place minature versions of things they would like on the Ekekos, and then "make him happy" by placing a lit ciagrette in his mouth.
World welcomes New Year with celebrations
Sumo Grand Champion Asashoryu performs "Dohyo-iri" (ring purification ritual) at the Meiji Jingu Shrine on Jan. 6, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan. It is the custom that Sumo Grand Champions celebrate the new year by performing the ritual at the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Andean men participate in a one-on-one fight during the Takanakuy, a traditional festivity at Chumbivilcas province in Cuzco, Peru on Dec. 25, 2011. Takanakuy, which means "when the blood is boiling" in Quechua (the indigenous Peruvian language) is an annual and ancient celebration inherited from the pre-hispanic Chanka culture that gives hundreds of Andean villagers the chance to solve their love, honor and property problems through the force of blows as a way to put differences behind them before the new year.
Runners take part in the 86th Sao Silvestre New Year's Eve road race at the start, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Dec. 31, 2010. About 21,000 runners took part in Brazil's most traditional 15-kilometer street race.
A Turkish Kurd jumps over a fire during a gathering to celebrate Noruz, the Kurdish New Year, in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 20, 2011. Noruz, which means "new day," marks the first day of spring and is commonly known as the Persian New Year. It is also celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bahrain, Armenia, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, as well as among various other Iranian and Turkic peoples in Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, northwestern China, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and the Balkans.
Residents drink vodka during traditional "Koliady" rituals in the village of Pogost, outside of Minsk, Belarus on Jan. 7, 2011. Koliady is an ancient pagan holiday initially celebrated on winter solstice but since appropriated to celebrate Christmas and New Year according to the Julian calendar, and other winter holidays.
A Quechua and two Ayamara shamans celebrate the Aymara New Year in Samaipata, Bolivia, on June 21, 2011. The Aymara New Year is a celebration of the winter solstice, and indigenous peoples used the day to ask the gods for a good harvest in the coming season. Bolivian President Evo Morales declared June 21 national holiday in 2009.
Revelers take to Princes Street for the fireworks display to celebrate the arrival of the New Year on Jan. 1, 2011 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The traditional New Year's song "Aung Lang Syne" was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 and is an ode to old friendships. Groups of friends will often hold hands in a circle while singing, and at the start of the last verse they will crisscross their arms and then rush in towards the middle at the end.
Members of a family make the traditional Lunar New Year "banh chung" or rice cakes for sale on the courtyard of their house in a suburb of Hanoi, Vietnam on Feb. 7, 2002. Banh chung is a delicacy made of sticky rice, pork and green peas, all wrapped in "dong" leaves and cooked for more than 10 hours. Food is an important aspect of New Year's traditions for all cultures. Pork and ham is very popular in the Philippines, Austria, Germany, and Sweden, among others. The pig is known for rooting forward for food with their snouts, and their feet planted. This is seen as a symbol of moving forward in the new year.
The One Nation float won the Craftsman Award during the 122nd annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 201. The Rose Parade began in 1890 as a way to promote Pasadena as the "Mediterranean of the West." The Tournament of Roses association invited friends from the East Coast to play various games in the warm weather. Because of all the fresh flowers in the area even in the winter, the flowers were incorporated into the event and showcased.
People pray for prosperity in their businesses for the new year at the Kanda Shrine, known as the god of business, on the first working day after the New Year, on Jan. 5, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan.
A Jewish woman practices Tashlikh on the first day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, on the seafront of the Israeli city of Ashdod on Sept. 30, 2008. Tashlikh is a long-standing Jewish practice performed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. The previous year's sins are symbolically cast off by throwing pieces of bread, or a similar food item, into the sea.