Ring in the New Year somewhere different this year! There are many exotic places to celebrate New Year’s Eve that bring the celebration factor to another level. We’ve had the good fortune of ringing in the New Year’s around the world from India to Mexico. When traveling full-time, we often planned our itineraries around where the most happening New Year celebrations were taking place. From Asia to Australia and Africa to Scandinavia, let’s look at how other countries celebrate and what New Year’s Eve traditions you can expect worldwide.
Where to Celebrate New Year’s Eve Around the World
For nearly 20 years, Dave and I escaped Canada for the winter season and enjoyed different New Year’s traditions as we said goodbye to the old year and hello to the new.
New Year’s Eve is a time for a fresh start and to wish for peace and good fortune for the year ahead. So, it makes sense that people like to make the most of celebrating the last night of the year in style. From long-standing traditions in South America countries like Brazil and Bolivia to the best New Year’s Eve Party in Australia, let’s see who does it best!
1. Edinburgh, Scotland
In Scotland, the word for the last day of the old year is Hogmanay, and they love to ring in the New Year with full-on festivities. This celebration was taken from the Vikings, who celebrated the winter solstice with bonfire ceremonies. Today, it has morphed into a 3-day celebration. This year’s biggest celebration is taking place in Inverness.
Scotland celebrates with typical New Year events like many countries, with fireworks and gatherings, but the Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies and torch-lit processions while swinging giant fireballs, making it the best place to ring in the year ahead. Read more: 22 Best Things To Do in Edinburgh, Scotland
New Year’s traditions in Scotland have historically been to observe the ‘first footing’ where the first person crossing the threshold of a home after midnight brings good fortune. Historically, that person was a very important man with dark hair bearing gifts. The first person they encountered to ring in the new year set the tone for the year ahead.
Scottish Poet Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne
It makes sense to begin our New Year’s celebrations in Scotland since one of the top New Year’s traditions around the world is to sing Auld Lang Syne. Auld Lang Syne was written by the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns and the Scots began singing it on Hogmanay to celebrate the winter solstice. As they emigrated around the world, they took it with them.
However, there is a Canadian connection with the song as well. Famous Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo was the show to watch on New Year’s Eve from 1929 to 1962. His orchestra played at the first nationwide New Year’s Eve broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. He played Auld Lang Syne that night, and for years to come, it has been ingrained in New Year’s celebrations everywhere ever since. Auld Lang Syne means old long ago, long long ago and New Year’s wouldn’t be the same without it.
2. New York, USA
Even if you haven’t been to New York City on New Year’s, you know about New York’s iconic ball drop. The Times Square celebration is televised worldwide as everyone watches Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen enjoy the festivities. Read more: Things to do in Times Square – A Walking Tour and Nearby Attractions
At midnight, the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square has become the world’s most famous New Year event. As the large crystal ball drops down the flagpole of One Times Square, revelers countdown from 10 while singing Auld Lang Syne, as couples kiss and toast with some bubbly to mark a fresh start to the New Year. Check out: 41 Awesome Things to Do in New York City
3. Sydney, Australia
For an unforgettable New Year’s experience, head to Sydney, Australia, for its fireworks display over Sydney Harbour. The City of Sydney organizes two sets of fireworks – one at 9:00 pm and one at midnight. The fireworks can be viewed from all around the city, including the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and different parks and vantage points around the harbor.
Since Sydney has a warm climate, many outdoor activities and events occur on New Year’s Eve. These can include beach parties, picnics, and outdoor concerts. Check out more Fun Facts About Australia
4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is home to some of the most famous beaches in Brazil, and it is common for people to celebrate the New Year by having parties on the beach. These parties often include live music, dancing, and fireworks displays. The most famous beach party in Rio is the Reveillon na Praia (New Year’s Eve on the Beach), which takes place on Copacabana Beach and is attended by thousands of people.
In Brazil, it is common to have a special New Year dinner, known as Ceia de Ano Novo, consisting of various traditional dishes. These dishes can include roast beef or pork, eating black-eyed peas, and lentils, which are believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.
Other New Year’s traditions in Brazil are to wear white and then when the clock strikes midnight, they jump seven waves and make seven wishes with each wave. Seven is a lucky number so besides jumping over seven waves, they also eat seven pomegranate seeds. You may also like: The Top 18 Most Excellent Things to do in Rio de Janeiro
5. Tokyo, Japan
New Year’s Eve, also known as Omisoka in Japan, is a major holiday in Japan and is traditionally a time for families to come together and celebrate the end of the year. Toyo is already an exciting city and in Japan, Tokyo and Tokyo Disneyland is the place to be.
In Japan, it is common for people to visit temples and participate in religious ceremonies. At these temples, people pray for good fortune and prosperity in the upcoming year. Some of the most famous temples to visit in Tokyo include the Meiji Shrine and the Asakusa Shrine. Read more: Mind-Blowing Facts about Japan
Like many countries, the Japanese welcome the new year with a fresh start by doing a major house cleaning. The same is true among commercial establishments. Merchants take this opportunity to clear old inventory by offering fukubukuro or lucky bags filled with lucky charms. Read more about Japanese New Year Traditions at 7 Unique Japanese New Year Traditions
6. Toronto, Canada
It has been said that a Canadian tradition to celebrate New Year’s Eve is to go ice fishing, but I seriously don’t know anyone who has done that for the New Year. Don’t get me wrong, people go ice fishing in Canada, but on New Year’s Eve, the Canadians I know like to celebrate the coming year with festivities either in warmth or at one of the many parties around the country. Check out: 22 Adventurous and fun Things to do in Winter in Canada
Usually, we attend house parties (so there’s no drinking and driving) but cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Halifax have full-blown celebrations. Many people brave the cold to watch outdoor concerts in the main city squares. With fireworks and the countdown to midnight. We follow the typical New Year’s traditions of popping the cork and sipping champagne to kissing at midnight and singing Auld Lang Syne.
One New Year’s Day, one of the best New Year’s Traditions in Canada is that many people take the polar plunge challenge. Yep, a bunch of people dressed in funny costumes jump into freezing water in the name of charity and bragging rights for years to come.
7. London, UK
One of the most famous New Year’s Eve traditions in London is the London New Year’s Eve fireworks display. The fireworks display is organized by the Mayor of London and takes place on the Thames River, with fireworks being launched from the London Eye and other locations along the river. The chimes of Big Ben help ring in the new year as people hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.
The fireworks can be viewed from various locations around the city, including the South Bank, Westminster Bridge, and Victoria Embankment. If you’re looking for something a little more low key, head to one of the city’s many pubs for a traditional New Year’s celebration. Read more about travel to London: 38 Best Things to do in London, England
8. Hong Kong
Hong Kong celebrates Chinese New Year between January 21 and Feb 20 depending on the year, but the city definitely embraces the typical New Year’s Eve celebrations on December 31. No skyline can quite compare to the Hong Kong skyline and the light show is taken up a notch on New Year’s Eve with a fireworks display over Victoria Harbour.
The countdown clock is displayed on the convention center located directly on the harbor as famous artists perform from traditional drums to pop musicians. Check out more of Hong Kong at Things to do in Hong Kong – The Complete Travel Guide to Hong Kong
9. Cape Town, South Africa
Nowhere is quite as beautiful as the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa and one of the best ways to celebrate is to head onto a party boat to ring in the New Year. The waterfront has rooftop bars and the waterfront promenade to watch the fireworks over The Harbourfront.
In parts of South Africa they throw old furniture out the window. This isn’t so popular anymore as it’s very dangerous, but if you happen to be in South Africa in the New Year, make sure to look up as you walk past any tall buildings!
We celebrated New Year’s Even on the Panama Canal a few years ago and it was spectacular to watch fireworks over the famous landmark. Panama City is a world city that is an amazing place where people gather to ring in the New Year.
While searching for traditions, we learned that in Panama, people burn life size dolls at the stroke of midnight. The dolls are called muñecos de año viejo (old year dolls), muñecos judas (judas dolls) and represent people they don’t like for example, bad spirits, political figures or someone who has done them wrong. When the effigies are burned, fire, the sins of the old year are destroyed making room for a Happy New Year.
One of the most distinctive traditions on New Years Eve in the Philippines involves wearing polka dots. This stems from the Filipino belief that circles symbolize prosperity and wealth. The round shapes resemble coins, and wearing them is believed to attract financial fortune in the coming year.
Besides polka dots treets and homes are often adorned with round shapes from bowls of round fruit to round ornaments. As midnight approaches families come together, sharing festive meals and making some noise using everything from firecrackers and pots and pans to ward off evil spirits and usher in a prosperous new year.
Ireland has interesting New Year traditions from banging bread to ward of evil spirits to cleaning their house from polishing the floors and scrubbing the windows. Like Scotland, they too embrace the first footing and when you visit a house, it is said to bring good luck if you enter through the front door and out the back.
In Italy, it is a New Year’s tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight to bring good luck. The 12 grapes represent 12 months of the year. Italians also traditionally make a point of wearing red underwear to ward off bad luck.
On New Year’s Eve, Bolivians often wear special underwear to attract good fortune. The color of the underwear that is chosen is important and is based on the desires and hopes of the individual for the new year. The most common color is red underwear to attract love and passion and yellow to bring wealth and economic success.
We started with Scotland, which began its New Year celebrations by embracing the Viking celebrations of the winter solstice, so we must end with the unique tradition of smashing plates. Like many other countries, the Danes like to party, and they celebrate with fireworks, champagne, and dining out at places like Tivoli Gardens.
But one of Scandinavia’s more unique New Year traditions is smashing plates on your neighbor’s door. If you awake to a door full of smashed plates, it’s a good omen for the coming year. The tradition of throwing old plates against doors is to banish bad spirits.
New Year’s Resolutions
Like nearly everywhere worldwide, Canadians like to make New Year’s Resolutions. Once we say goodbye to the past year, we look forward to the coming year by making plans. Even if people say they don’t make resolutions, they usually at least think about it.
One would think that this is a newer tradition but New Year’s Resolutions date back to ancient times. It is believed that the ancient Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s promises some 4000 years ago. Their big resolutions were to return borrowed farm equipment and pay off debts.
While traditions and values have changed a bit over these past few thousand years, we all still look at the new year as a chance to make changes in the coming year to enjoy good health and prosperity.
So, there you have it. Whether you are the first country to celebrate New Year’s Day (that would be Kiribati in the South Pacific) or the last Country to Celebrate New Year, which is American Samoa, we hope you have a year filled with joy, love, and laughter.
Where is your favourite place to Ring in the New Year? Most cities and countries have awesome celebrations, enlighten us and tell us about your New Year traditions and celebrations so we can add to this list!