By Courtney Pomeroy

LANHAM, Md. (WNEW/AP) — There are almost 200 countries on Earth and more than 7 billion people, so it should come as no surprise that there are many different customs in place to ring in the New Year around the world.

NYC Ball Drop Inspires ‘Drops’ of Other Kinds

Televised images of New York City’s glittery ball drop have become inextricably linked with New Year’s Eve. But Times Square isn’t the only place to ring in the new year with an object dropping at midnight.

Locally, the beloved Krumpe’s Do-Nut shop in Hagerstown started dropping a giant papier-mache pastry (into a giant coffee cup, no less) a few years ago. Havre de Grace, a bayside town, does a “duck drop.” Easton, located on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake, does a “crab drop.” And Princess Anne, Maryland does a “muskrat” drop.

Las Cruces, New Mexico, is spicing up this New Year’s Eve with its first ever chile drop.

In Miami, a 35-foot neon orange will light up before it falls, and Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee, will mark the start of 2015 with peach and music note drops, respectively.

Around the country, the countdown-to-midnight events are quirky and sometimes bizarre. Objects range from a watermelon to walleye to a live opossum to a pickle. Officials in cities with Times Square-styled celebrations have found that the events are great ways to draw people to their downtowns — often with accompanying fireworks displays and concerts — while embracing their heritage.

The town of Brasstown, North Carolina, for most of the past 20 years has used a live animal in its New Year’s Eve Possum Drop. But this year, after challenges from animal rights protesters, the organizer says he’ll no longer use a live opossum — instead, it’ll be a road-kill opossum or perhaps a pot of opossum stew.

In Arizona, the celebratory New Year’s Eve drops include a pine cone, cowboy boot and playing card.

Flagstaff, Arizona, celebrates the new year with a 6-foot pine cone that drops from a downtown hotel twice — once at 10 p.m. at an event geared toward families and again at midnight. The pine cone is fitting for the mountain town that lies within the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest.

In nearby Prescott, the city began dropping a 6-foot spurred cowboy boot above downtown’s Whiskey Row four years ago in a nod to its western culture.

Officials in the Arizona town of Show Low deal a deuce of clubs card on New Year’s. The card represents how the town, which is about 180 miles northeast of Phoenix, supposedly got its name. A settler won a ranch through a card game where the object was to show the lowest card, hence the two of clubs. Since 2010, a 7-by-4-foot card has dropped from a crane in a downtown park.

Pleasing the Water Goddess in Brazil

To please Iemanjá, the Goddess of the Water, many Brazilians fill boats with flowers and other offerings in toy boats and send them out to sea, or just toss things into the water. They do this with the hope that she will grant their requests in the new year.

Opening Up Cabinets and Doors in the Philippines

If you want a lucky new year in the Philippines, you are supposed open up your doors, cabinets and windows before midnight on New Year’s Eve to allow good luck to enter.

Romania’s Bear Dance

CBS News reports that Romanians welcome the new year in brightly colored costumes or animal furs to ward off evil. Dancers perform something called the “bear” dance, a ritual for good luck, during a traditional parade in Comanesti.

German Bleigießen, or Lead-Pouring

On New Year’s Eve in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it is not uncommon to melt pieces of lead over candles, pour the lead into cold water and then examine the hardened shape. The shape supposedly predicts the events of the coming year.

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A Dozen Grapes

Some Spaniards like to ring in the New Year by eating 12 grapes, each one representing one of the months of the upcoming year. A sweet grape means one good month, a sour grape means one bad month. There’s a similar custom in Portugal, but it subs in raisins for grapes and you are supposed to make a wish on each one.

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“First-Footing” in Scotland and Northern England

This tradition centers around the first person to set foot inside a dwelling on New Year’s Day. Usually, they bear gifts. Traditional ones include bread, salt, coal and an alcoholic drink, said to represent prosperity, food, flavor, warmth, and good cheer.

Colorful Underwear

Many Italians wear red undergarments on New Year’s Eve. The origin of this tradition is not agreed upon by everyone who participates, but most say it’s just supposed to bring good luck.

A similar tradition is popular in some Latin American countries, but it involves multiple colors of underwear. Colors correspond with different wishes for the new year, like luck or passion.

Merry New Year (Twice!) in Russia

In Russia, many traditions usually associated with Dec. 25 in other parts of the world (like exchanging gifts and decorating a tree) actually happen in January. This is attributed to a few different events in Russian history.

First, the Russian Orthodox church decided to stick with the Julian calendar instead of the more modern Gregorian calendar when the latter was officially adopted by the Russian government in 1918. On the Julian calendar, Christmas falls on Jan. 7.

And, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks banned Christmas celebrations. Christmas traditions were transferred to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, instead.

Some Russians still celebrate both the old New Year (the Julian calendar New Year) on Jan. 14, and the new New Year (the Gregorian calendar New Year) on Jan. 1.

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