Time for Auld Lang Syne — New Year’s Eve!
I’m typing this on the afternoon of December 31, 2018, with less than nine hours to go in the year for those of us on the west coast. Big plans for tonight? Nope, I may watch the ball drop in New York — since it’ll be just 9 p.m. here — and then toddle off to bed with my dog. It’s likely I’ll sleep right through midnight, unless folks are unusually noisy in my ‘hood. As a child, being able to stay up to see in the new year was highly coveted. I don't recall my first experience, but I guess that means it wasn’t very memorable. I do remember being with my niece and nephew on the evening of December 31, 2008, when they were given permission by their mom to stay up until midnight. We all put our jammies on hours before then, and the kids fought to stay awake, not too enticed by the New Year’s Chicago program on the TV. They were bleary-eyed when the magic moment came — and utterly disappointed that there wasn’t really anything to it. I have mixed memories of New Year’s Eve as an adult. In my 20s, I usually went out somewhere with friends and partied through midnight. In my 30s, I usually had a boyfriend, which didn’t necessarily mean much when it came to year-end festivities. One year, I recall we’d planned to go out, but my guy was so tired when he came home from work that he crawled into bed after dinner — and I ended up “reveling” by myself. Perhaps the most memorable celebration was when I was in Puerto Vallarta for New Year’s, and we crashed a party at our hotel that was hosted by locals. I can count to 10 in Spanish — but counting backward took too much thought, so we waited for uno and knew midnight had come. In my 40s, I usually did something lowkey for New Year’s. I do recall being in Chicago on December 31, 1999, the eve before many pundits said Y2K issues would cripple technology — and being relieved when January 1, 2000 came without any issues. In my 50s, my New Year’s Eves have been spent pretty much the way tonight will go for me. I did buy a bottle of sparkling apple cider as a treat, but otherwise I’ll be perfectly content, safe and warm on my couch, with my trusty pooch at my side. I can honestly say I’ve never participated in two common traditions throughout the U.S.: singing “Auld Lang Syne” — a Scottish poem brought to music — and eating black-eyed peas. Thinking about our traditions made me wonder how other countries ring in the new year. New Year’s Traditions Around the World WorldStrides did the research for me, learning how nine cultures welcome a new year. Spain — In Spain, it’s customary to eat 12 grapes — one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. In bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in main squares to eat their grapes together and pass around bottles of cava.
Colombia — In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block.
Denmark — Residents of Denmark greet the new year by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits. They also stand on chairs and jump off of them together at midnight to “leap” into January in hopes of good luck.
Finland — In Finland, people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring means a wedding, while a ship predicts travel and a pig declares there will be plenty of food.
Panama — To drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year’s start, it’s tradition to burn effigies (muñecos) of well-known people such as television characters and political figures in Panama. The effigies are meant to represent the old year.
Scotland — During Scotland’s New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, “first-footing” is practiced across the country. The first person who crosses a threshold of a home in the new year should carry a gift for luck. Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies where people parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles, supposedly symbols of the sun, to purify the coming year.
Philippines — You’ll find round shapes all over the Philippines on New Year’s Eve as representatives of coins to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. Many families display piles of fruit on their dining tables and some eat exactly 12 round fruits (grapes being the most common) at midnight. Many also wear polka dots for luck.
Brazil — In Brazil, as well as other Central and South America countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, it’s thought to be lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. The most popular colors are red and yellow, the former thought to bring love in the new year, and the latter thought to bring money.
Greece — An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Eve in Greece as a symbol of rebirth in the new year. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.
Interesting, eh? If you prefer a big party to bring in the new year, where are the best? Read on. Best New Year’s Eve Parties If you’re staying in the U.S., New York City, Orlando, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are ranked as the top cities to ring in the new year by WalletHub — taking into consideration cost, food, entertainment, and safety. But what about New Year’s Eve around the world? Here’s a list compiled by Smart Meetings.
Hong Kong — Few, if any, harbors are more spectacular than Victoria Harbor — and never more so than on New Year’s Eve, when fireworks carom over the bustling waterway. Watch at ground zero from a traditional junk, or make your way to the 118th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong (formerly the highest bar in the world) for an eagle-eye view.
London — You’ll need a ticket for the closest viewing of fireworks on the Thames, but you can watch them from Vauxhall or Lambeth Bridge for free. The Ritz London is renowned as the best place to go for traditional revelries. The august property hosts black-tie dinners that are crashed by a regimental marching band, and its own fireworks over the garden. Edinburgh — Hogmanay, the Scots word for the last day of the year, kicks off on Dec. 30 with a raucous, torch-lit parade through the streets, followed by fireworks. On New Year’s Eve, even more revelers emerge for the world’s biggest and loudest singing of “Auld Lang Syne,” followed by a night of street partying. New Year’s Day witnesses an unbridled outbreak of live music and theater. Sydney — It’s warm there on New Year’s Eve — what a concept! And perfect for watching what’s billed as the world’s biggest fireworks show. Sydney Harbor is where it happens, and you can watch by boat, on rustic Cockatoo Island or at one of the waterside restaurants near Sydney Harbor Bridge. Goa — This legendary beach party may not be as psychedelic as it once was, but dancing in the sand under the stars, with fairy lights in the palm trees, cannot help but make you feel young and free again. Fireworks and revelry up and down the coast of this Indian state go on all night. Those around Anjuna are the craziest. Rio de Janeiro — Why not join the 2 million or so who gather on Copacabana Beach for fireworks? It will be tropical. But it will not be colorful. White is the traditional color for good luck in the new year. The live music in the air could be samba, or it could be almost any other genre. For the ultimate experience, watch it all from Copacabana Palace, a high-society hotel overlooking the beach. Berlin — Those Germans know how to party. The day sees the annual running of Berliner Silvesterlauf, in which contestants dress up and jog on routes of up to 15k to collect their jelly donut at the finish line. At night, the big party is at the Brandenburg Gate. Koh Phangan — Southern Thailand is famous for its full-moon parties, and this Thai island has the most famous of them all. Therefore, expect all-out revelry on New Year’s Eve, especially around Sunrise Beach in Had Rin. The party won’t stop till the following afternoon, at least, so old hands know to wait until just before midnight to begin. Have any New Year’s Eve stories you wish to share? We’d love to hear them! For more about New Year's Eve visit our YouTube channel show Holiday History also in Spanish.