Skip to content

Doors at New Year: traditions from around the world

As we move into January, people all over the world are celebrating New Year. Parties are being held, resolutions made, and traditions practised. However, not everyone celebrates in the same way, or at the same time. Chinese New Year for example, falls on a different date each year. Interestingly, there are a few common ideas, which seem to be popular across the globe. The symbolism of doors, for instance, features in New Year celebrations all over the world.

First footing

This tradition is said to have originated in Scotland and Northern England. Folk law says that the first person to enter a home through the front door on New Year’s Day will bring good luck. It’s often thought to be lucky if that ‘first foot’ is a tall, dark-haired man. However, the man’s physical features and colouring change depending on where the story is told. It’s said that he should also be carrying gifts for the home. These can include coal, bread, salt, drinks, and coins, amongst other things. Each item is said to bring some kind of good fortune for the coming year.


In Japanese culture, it’s traditional to decorate around the front door of a home with Kadomatsu. These decorations are usually constructed from pine and bamboo. The durable materials symbolise the ability to overcome any difficulties the year may bring. Kadomatsu have traditionally been used to honour different deities. The hope is that the deities will then bless the household for the coming year.

Plate throwing

Denmark has a very memorable way of celebrating the New Year. Traditionally, people collect old plates and dishes throughout the year. When New Year’s Eve arrives, the dishes are thrown against the front doors of friends’ houses. On the morning of New Year’s Day, each household goes outside to see how much crockery is there. It’s thought that the more broken plates are outside your door, the more friends you will have for the New Year!

Red doors

For Chinese New Year, it’s traditional to paint the front door of a home red. The colour is said to symbolise luck and good fortune. Red and gold decorations are also hung on front doors, symbolising good luck and wealth. These decorations often feature a type of couplets poem called a ‘Chunlian’. The Chunlian usually speaks of good fortune for the year ahead.


Whilst many New Year traditions feature the front door, in Wales it begins with the backdoor. When the clocks strike midnight for the first time on New Year’s Eve, the backdoor of the home is opened. This is thought to usher out the past year and any of the bad luck it brought. The door is then quickly closed again and locked. The locking of the door is thought to shut out the bad luck and keep the good luck in. On the twelfth stroke, the front door is then opened, to welcome in the New Year and all its good fortune.

[Photo by geralt]