New Year’s Eve brings so many things to mind. You probably recalled the celebration your family had and the wonderful moments you shared as you rang in the new year. I did so too and then wondered, “How do others celebrate during New Year’s Eve?”
After watching a short clip from the BBC about how other countries celebrated, I realized how different New Year’s Eve was all around the world. I also realized how people express their New Year wishes differently in every country. And that’s what makes it a wonderful world.
To add a twist to this article, we’ll be touring the globe per continent instead of the usual rundown of things to do on New Year’s Eve. We’ll be highlighting their NYE celebrations and their traditions as we go. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- North America: the United States, Canada,
- South America: Mexico, Brazil
- Europe: Scotland, France
- Africa: South Africa, Egypt
- Asia: Japan, Singapore
- Antarctica (Yes! Even Antarctica)
But why talk about New Year’s Eve? Well, it’s a new season and the best way to anticipate the great things up ahead is with a positive disposition. What better way to look for inspiration than from celebrations, right?
So, come on, and let’s bring in some new year’s cheers!
New Year’s Eve Celebrations In North America
Celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks, the annual ball drop, outdoor wonders, and winter sports in the United States and Canada.
USA: Time Square New York's New Year's Eve Ball
Perhaps the most well-known New Year’s Eve celebration in the States is the ball drop at Time Square, New York. Every year, millions of people watch the crystal ball descend from 11:59 PM of the 31st of December to January 1 of the new year. Some watch from the comforts of their homes while others flock to Times Square and watch it in person.
The annual ball drop started in 1907 as a plan B to fireworks which were banned in the city in 1906. Adolph Och, who was the owner of the New York Times, thought of this as an alternative to fireworks since it was bright and festive.
At the same time, it also had logical roots as it came from an old maritime tradition of ships adjusting their clocks using “time balls” on the shore. These were dropped every 1 PM which signified the hour has come, so the ships took note and adjusted their clocks accordingly. The time ball dropping at Time Square then became a symbolic act of a new hour arriving — the new year.
And so the glowing crystal ball has been dropped every year in New York since then. The celebration that follows reflects the anticipation of the new year’s hopes and dreams as it commemorates the year that was.
Here are a few fun facts about the Times Square Ball that gives it its multicolored festive look:
- It’s an 11,875-pound geodesic sphere that’s 12 feet in diameter
- It’s the world’s largest crystal ball
- Waterford Crystal triangles as many as 2,688 pieces produce 16 million colors as it’s being lit up by 672 LED bulbs
Canada’s New Year’s Eve Events: Wintersports & Northern Lights
In the land of wintersports and delicious maple syrup, Canada’s things to do on new year’s eve come in two distinct ways:
- Natural wonders: Aurora Borealis
- Outdoor sports: ice skating, ice fishing, and a polar bear swim on top of the usual festivities
These activities are big in the country because of the natural resources available around them. We see here how where we live also plays a factor on New Year’s Eve events.
For example, activities like ice skating and ice fishing are popular in Canada because the natural environment makes skating rinks and fishing spots possible. A great example is Rideau Canal Skateway, a natural ice skating rink in Ottawa that’s the largest in the world. They also have other great rinks like the Nathan Phillips Square where Canadians get to enjoy ice skating with a fireworks display.
Canadians get to enjoy a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis as part of their New Year’s Eve events too. The country’s location in the Northern Hemisphere gives Canada the ideal set-up to produce the best shows of the northern lights. Canada has a lot of great places to enjoy the northern lights like Yellowknife and Yukon.
Yellowknife is even called the “Aurora Capital of North America” because of its beautiful displays of the Aurora Borealis. Yukon is also a good place to see the lights with great accommodation just right beside to keep you nice and warm.
South America’s New Year Traditions
Say Feliz Ano Nuevo (Novo in Brazil) with Mexico and Brazil as we check out their New Year’s Eve traditions.
New Year Celebrations in Mexico With Fruits & Toasts
Feliz Año Nuevo, amigo! Mexican parties have that beat that just makes you want to groove with them too — and New Year’s is no exemption. The festivities go on with grapes, lentils, and champagne for a cheerful toast.
Eating grapes is similar to Minute To Win it in the sense that 12 grapes are supposed to be eaten within 1 minute. This is to make sure your New Year’s wishes come true. Lentils, on the other hand, are associated with prosperity. They’re left outside doors on New Year’s Eve or served as lentil soup for dinner.
Champagne bottles are popped and poured into glasses with golden rings inside as the clock strikes twelve. Then everyone hugs and greets each other Feliz Año Nuevo. Mexicans believe this will bring in a great love life and prosperity in the new year.
Sometimes, there’s even a smashing of plates to signify a breaking of bad habits as the guitars play festive music in the background. A fun trivia about this is the delicious fried donuts drizzled with honey (buñuelos) that are first served on these plates before they got smashed. Fireworks are also a favorite and are most enjoyed at the beach.
Brazil’s New Year’s Eve With Hearty Dishes and Waves of the Sea
Feliz Año Novo is how Brazilians greet each other on New Year’s Eve as midnight comes. If you noticed the difference from the Mexican’s way of greeting, it’s because Portuguese is the language that’s spoken in Brazil. While Spanish is the predominant language in Mexico.
A difference in language also comes a difference in culture. We may tend to think that it’s the same all around the continent but every country has its own unique culture though there are similarities. And as we said at the beginning, that uniqueness is what makes it a wonderful world.
An example of a similarity is lentils on New Year’s Eve. Brazilians believe eating lentils will bring success and wealth in the new year. It’s like Mexico’s but the difference is in their nuances.
Brazilians believe that what you eat on New Year’s Eve will be reflective of what the next 12 months will be like. So aside from lentils, pork is also included in their dishes because this represents abundance or fullness.
A unique New Year’s tradition in Brazil is wearing white to signify prosperity and peace for the coming year. Going to the beach and hopping over seven waves is also a popular New Year’s tradition in Brazil.
Celebrating New Year’s Wishes At Europe
New Year’s Eve celebration with cozy dishes, whiskies, and the Eiffel Tower in Europe.
Things To Do On New Year’s Eve at Scotland: Hogmanay & Traditions
Did you know that Auld Lang Syne originated from Scotland? Yes, the author Robert Burns who penned the song was a Scot and it’s become known the world over. And so has Scotland’s New Year’s Eve celebration known as Hogmanay.
Hogmanay is celebrated with warm family dinners made of savory dishes like cock-a-leekie soup and haggis with neeps and tatties. Sweet treats like shortbread, cranachan, and a tipsy laird trifle are served for dessert. An enjoyable glass of whisky or a mug of beer accompanies the whole meal.
Additionally, a torchlight procession, fireworks, and street parties line up the New Year’s Eve events during Hogmanay. Auld Lang Syne being sung at midnight ends the whole New Year’s celebration.
New Year traditions kept by Scots on Hogmanay include:
- Deep cleaning the whole as a symbolic act of clearing out the past
- Clearing off all debts
- A dark-haired man to be the first one to step foot inside the house while bringing inside gifts symbolizing good fortune (known as first-footer)
- Singing Auld Lang Syne
You might be curious as to why Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish fave and many around the world’s too. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is a rough translation of ‘for old times’ sake’ in Scottish.
This theme is seen throughout the lyrics which talk about friendships and thankfulness for the past year’s events making it perfect for New Year’s Eve. This is why it evokes nostalgia and has made it close to many people’s hearts.
Themed Parties & Sumptuous Dinners for New Year’s Eve at France
Bonjour! Bonne année! (Happy New Year!) Wondering how the French welcome the new year?
New Year’s Eve in France is with the company of the one’s nearest and dearest – friends, family, and community. New Year’s Eve events center around these important relationships which include having a feast for dinner, dancing, and watching the President’s message on TV.
There are no specific dishes served for dinner. What’s sure is that it’s going to be a feast to be enjoyed. They do have delectable staples though like champagne, oysters, salmon, goose, and foie gras.
They also celebrate with themed parties and enjoy dancing throughout the night’s celebration until the new year arrives. Fancy throwing a dino-themed party with dino costumes perhaps? New Year’s Eve parties like these also more often with friends and romantic relationships than family.
Going out on New Year’s Eve is also popular in France where people enjoy the meals, ambiance, and each other’s company at hotels, restaurants, and other venues.
Fireworks are part of the night’s highlight as well! But contrary to what you might be thinking, the fireworks are at the famous Champs-Elysees not at the Eiffel Tower. Fireworks at the iconic Eiffel Tower are set off during Bastille Day in July.
Africa’s New Year’s Celebrations of Bright Lights, Carnivals, and Family Gatherings
Enjoy a lively party or celebrate a quiet night with family and friends in South Africa on New Year’s Eve.
South Africa’s Bright & Beautiful Cape Town on New Year’s Eve
South Africa has vibrant New Year’s Eve celebrations that people in the country enjoy. From preparing food in the day with family to partying with lively music throughout the night, South Africa rings in the new year like no other. Famous New Year’s events are the Cape Town Carnival, parties at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and the Festival of Lights.
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival celebrates on New Year’s Eve through impressive floats, bright costumes, and creative dances. Their performances happen on a set route throughout Cape Town, entertaining those who are watching. The crowds reach up to 50,000 people because of the incredible performance this group creates.
The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront hosts lights shows, fireworks, great food and dancing on New Year’s Eve. It’s also another crowd-pleaser that draws in a lot of visitors who’d enjoy the festivities well into the new year.
Cape Town’s Festival of Lights offers a more symbolic celebration as people parade through Adderley Street with their DIY lanterns lit up and set to flight at the parade’s last stop. The festival celebrates unity, love, joy, and family.
New Year’s Celebrations In Egypt
Historic Egypt has unique ways of celebrating on New Year’s Eve. From traditions going way back to their ancient ancestors to modern times that light up the night.
In ancient Egypt, the people celebrated New Year not in January but in July when the sky’s brightest star, Sirius, appeared. It’s during this star’s appearance that the Nile River floods over and hydrates the farm lands which helped produce crops in Egypt.
This then led to a celebration through a festival called “Wepet Renpet” (opening of the year). It symbolized the opening of a new year of harvest, growth, and rebirth.
Modern day Egypt celebrates New Year’s Eve with parties, delectable eats, and fireworks. Lighted colorful boats, locally known as the Felouka, floated in the Nile River and hosted parties. Egyptians sang, danced, and cheered in celebration of the coming season.
A lot also prefer to stay at home and party the night with friends and family. Enjoying a good meal while watching a good movie as they keep each other company makes up their New Year’s Eve.
Meaningful New Year’s Traditions & Celebrations in Asia
Check out the things to do on New Year’s Eve in Japan, the land of the rising sun, and in Singapore where they say passion is made possible.
Thoughtful Things To Do on New Year’s Eve in Japan
Did you know that New Year’s wishes in Japan are sent to one another via postcards? This thoughtful Japanese way of expressing gratitude and goodwill is carried by nengajo or nenga-hagaki. A personal approach of wishing each other well for the New Year is still practiced even in a technologically-inclined country like Japan.
For those who prefer sending a nengajo through an e-message will find a variety of websites offering that service like the Japan Post. Visitors to their website can create their own nengajo online with over 400 designs to choose from.
Aside from New Year’s wishes, New Year’s traditions like house cleaning, gift-giving, and eating special food reserved for the New Year are also practiced in Japan. Deep cleaning (osoji) the house on New Year’s Eve (omisoka) is symbolic of cleaning away the past. The Japanese believe that a clear house is symbolic to a clear mind which is the best way to start the New Year with.
Their gift-giving tradition is of envelopes with money that’s given to children called otoshidama. The amount inside is enough to make the child feel special, kind of like a token, so it doesn’t need to be big.
For New Year’s Eve dinner, Toshikoshi Soba is enjoyed by the family. It’s a bowl of hot dashi broth with long soba noodles and scallions. Crunchy tempura, fish cakes, or other toppings can be added to this classic dish for variety.
The New Year’s tradition of eating Toshikoshi Soba comes from the phrase toshi-koshi which means “crossing over from one year to the next”. This is how it’s become a cherished tradition for the Japanese on New Year’s Eve.
Singapore’s Biggest Countdown & Savory Cuisines on New Year’s Eve
Singapore is a country of diverse cultures, traditions, and celebrations. New Year’s Eve then is unique per household depending on how the family would like to celebrate. Singaporeans commonly enjoy collectively on New Year’s Eve are fireworks, family dinners, parties, and of course, the New Year countdown.
Singapore’s biggest countdown to the new year with a fireworks show to ring it in is the one hosted by Marina Bay Singapore. Vivid fireworks brighten the sky as the clock strikes midnight and those in the area cheer the new year in. Night markets, carnivals, and dazzling performances entertain everyone while waiting.
Parties are also enjoyed on trendy roof top bars, restaurants, and cafes where there’s a great view of the fireworks display from Marina Bay. 24-hour malls are also open for those who’d like to do some New Year’s Eve shopping.
For dinner, families cook their favorite food that are spread like a feast on New Year’s Eve. The cuisines on the table may range from Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Western, or Filipino depending on the household. Traditional favorites like chili crab, Hainanese chicken, curry, and laksa may also be on the menu.
Australia's New Year's Eve As A Summery Midnight Dream
The land down under celebrates the new year differently than most in that New Year’s Eve is in the summer rather than winter. Being located in the Southern Hemisphere gives Australia different times for the seasons. Their summers are in December while their winters are in June.
So if you’re looking for a summery get-away for the New Year, Australia is the place to be.
Australian food on New Year’s Eve are all about flavorful barbeques and grilled meats like sausages, lambs, and steaks among others. Since the country has a lot of spacious outdoor facilities, celebrations are usually an outdoor affair at beaches, parks, or the family backyard.
Major New Year’s Eve events for Australians are the fireworks show and celebrations at Sydney Harbour. It’s a stunning display of lights, sounds, and performances by the country’s best entertainers which is why it’s one of Australia’s biggest events to celebrate the coming year. The whole event is best enjoyed from the river cruises, waterfront accommodations, and the spacious beaches for a great view.
With their great venues and culinary delights, Australia always finds great ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve on Cruise Ships and Research Bases in Antarctica
Finally, down to our last continent on the trip is Antarctica. Let’s find out how this wintry wonderland greets the New Year.
Just like Australia, Antarctica enjoys a summer season in December since it’s also located in the Southern Hemisphere. It may not be as warm as the temperatures of summer in other countries but at – 23F, that’s already summer for them.
It’s also when Antarctica’s wildlife is out and about with parents raising their young ones. Penguins, humpback whales, and seals populate the beaches and seas going about their summer activities.
Tourists enjoy New Year’s Eve celebrations under the midnight sun from a cruise ship with toasts of champagne and each other’s company. Depending on the tour provider, people can also enjoy kayaking the bays and walking the lands of Antarctica.
If there are any locals in this wintry location, it will be the scientists and researchers who’re most likely to be the ones. They enjoy outdoor music festivals and parties in their research bases on New Year’s Eve.
Flying Back To Home Base After New Year’s Around The World
What a tour around the world on New Year’s Eve! Can you imagine exploring 7 continents in just one evening? We just did it and I’m so glad you went on this virtual globe-trotting trip with me. I hope you were inspired with these new ideas!
Who knows, you just might be on that part of the planet on New Year’s Eve this year. Wherever you are today and wherever you’ll be on December 31st of this year, I’m wishing you a very happy new year and sending you a toast from my champagne glass to yours.