Auld Lang Syne: Exploring New Year's Traditions

New Year's Day is almost here. While your child may be familiar with many New Year's traditions that are popular in America, does he or she know where they came from? What about traditions from around the world? This is a great chance to explore with your child our culture's history and to learn about other cultures by studying how they celebrate this holiday.

Find available tutors

kid-friendly new year

Auld Lang Who?

One of the most popular New Year's traditions that may completely confound your child is the song 'Auld Lang Syne.' Originally written by poet Robert Burns in 1788, the Scottish song is used at many occasions, but it's especially prominent at the start of a new year. The title can be translated directly as 'old long since,' but more colloquially as 'long, long ago' or 'days gone by.' The song's theme centers around friendship and nostalgia. This makes the song appropriate at a time when friends are traditionally gathered and people reflect on the year that is coming to a close.

Another common practice when celebrating a near year is to shoot off fireworks. While fireworks may seem to be a festive way of capping a party, they have a more serious origin. Originally invented in China, fireworks combine fire and loud noises. Both of these elements were believed to ward off evil spirits and cause good luck. To this day, China is known for its impressive fireworks displays on the holiday, though the Chinese New Year falls on a different date than that of the Gregorian calendar.

In reference to a tradition that is entirely American in origin, your child may have wondered why a huge ball drops in New York City to commemorate the new year. Long ago, when watches were less reliable, people would synchronize their timepieces using giant globes that dropped from poles in public areas, marking the precise hour. Adolph Ochs, who opened the New York Times building in Times Square in 1904, copied this tradition to mark the exact end of the year. While the need for calibrating watches has all but disappeared, the tradition has remained.

New Year's Around the Globe

If you're looking to add a little cultural diversity to your New Year's celebration this year, there is no shortage of ideas that can give your child insight into how different nation's mark the day. For example, people in the Philippines try to gather 12 different round fruits, one for each month. While there are a handful of common round fruits, like oranges and cantaloupe, finding 12 unique fruits should challenge your child and test his or her produce expertise. Filipino children also jump as high as they can at the stroke of midnight, believing that this will make them taller.

Spain has its own fruit-themed New Year's tradition that may make a fun game for your child. At midnight, many people try to eat 12 grapes, one timed to each chime of the clock. The goal is to finish the grapes before the 12th chime.

If you have a fire going on New Year's Eve, you can follow Ecuador's lead and burn a picture or effigy that represents something you want to leave behind as you start fresh in the New Year. A related tradition is found in Puerto Rico, where people throw a bucket of water out of a window to symbolize ridding themselves of any bad karma from the old year. Many people also thoroughly clean their homes before midnight, following the superstition that the condition of their home at the start of the year is how it will stay throughout the year, though this may be a hard sell with your child.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

  • More Blog Articles
    5 Ideas for Celebrating Black History Month with Your Kids

    February is Black History Month, which is a great chance to celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans with your kids. One of the best things you can do is find activities that bring these critical figures and moments from history into the present. Here are five Black History Month activities for you and your...

  • More Blog Articles
    Apps for Learning: Discovering History on your Mobile Device

    Many students find learning history to be dry and challenging. Fortunately, there are many apps that can help history come alive. This list of ten history-themed educational apps will teach your child in a style that's both fun and interactive.

We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In

Huntington Learning

  • What Huntington Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • One on one tutoring
  • Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
In-Center and Online


  • What K12 offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
  • AdvancED-accredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Online Only

Kaplan Kids

  • What Kaplan Kids offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Customized learning plans
  • Real-Time Progress Reports track your child's progress
Online Only


  • What Kumon offers:
  • In-center tutoring
  • Individualized programs for your child
  • Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
In-Center and Online

Sylvan Learning

  • What Sylvan Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
  • Regular assessment and progress reports
In-Home, In-Center and Online

Tutor Doctor

  • What Tutor Doctor offers:
  • In-Home tutoring
  • One on one attention by the tutor
  • Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
In-Home Only


  • What TutorVista offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Student works one-on-one with a professional tutor
  • Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations
Online Only

Our Commitment to You

  • Free Help from Teachers

  • Free Learning Materials

  • Helping Disadvantaged Youth