Take your pick from our list of some of the best places in the world to usher in the New Year; and make it as wild, romantic or relaxing as you want it to be when you say Hello to 2013.
Words: Efi Hafizah Hamzah
Similar to other party cities in the world, Edinburgh too offers a loud and noisy way to usher in the New Year. However, here, this also marks the start of a three-day, non-stop festival known as Hogmanay, which means ‘the last day of the year’ in Scottish. This is a freezing frenzy of a celebration that includes concerts, traditional music, dance and fireworks that explode high above the castle on Princes Street for 72 hours straight. The celebrations continue on Jan 1 with the Queensferry Loony Dook Annual Splash, where revellers jump into the icy River Forth to kick-start their New Year. www.hogmanay-edinburgh.com
Hong Kong, China SAR
The main stage for Hong Kong’s New Year celebration has always been at Victoria Harbour. Massive crowds gather in various parts of the city, but Victoria Harbour is where the action takes place. Beginning with a countdown and a huge ball drop at the Times Square shopping mall, the celebrations are followed by fireworks in various parts of the waterfront from the Causeway Bay all the way across to Harbour Green in Kowloon. You can also opt to welcome the New Year on a cruise ship where cruise packages are offered with exclusive views of the pyrotechnic display. www.discoverhongkong.com
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Hong Kong from various destinations. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Niagara Falls, Canada
While the illuminated ball drops in New York’s Times Square at midnight on New Year’s eve, a 10-foot Gibson guitar is dropped at Niagara Falls’ Hard Rock Café. This tradition of dropping the guitar began in 2009 and has made the New Year’s Eve festivities at Niagara Falls one of the most famous, free-for-all celebrations in the world, with open air concerts at Queen Victoria Park. The mind-blowing fireworks display will also have you awestruck as you say ‘Bye-Bye’ to 2012. www.infoniagara.com/attractions/new_years_eve
Take part in the native tradition called Nochevieja where Spaniards eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve – one at a chime, where eating all 12 on time means you will be blessed with great fortune in the coming year. Be sure to make reservations early as tradition dictates that you spend the first half of the evening savouring fabulous set menus, which may start as early as 6pm. Then, head for the Plaça de Catalunya where the celebrants go for the Nochevieja. Once that is done, it’s time to party all night long. However, don’t go looking for fantastic fireworks. On the contrary, the Barcelonians prefer a simple but memorable celebration. barcelona.de/en/barcelona-christmas-new-year.html
Phi Phi Island, Thailand
For those who like their parties hip and happening, Phi Phi is the place to be on New Year’s eve. The island rocks all year long, but on New Year’s eve, they up the ante with bonfire beach parties, bar and restaurant parties, muay Thai parties and live performances. Forget the fireworks, as you’ll be seeing stars from the endless excitement and exotic shows that are the staple of this island’s New Year’s do http://phi-phi.com/articles-phi-phi-info/culture/new-year.htm
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Phuket, Thailand from various destinations. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
The best of New Year’s eve festivities happen in Kuningan and Ancol Dreamland in South Jakarta, where most of the tourist attractions are located. Be warned! Jakarta is home to killer machet (traffic jams), so you need to get to these places early to beat the mad dash for choice spots to watch the people, the scene and the fireworks. The city is also brimming with a vibrant nightlife to help you usher in the New Year at specialty bars, restaurants, hotels and malls. For a taste of how the locals usher in the New Year, head to the National Monument Park (Monas) in Central Jakarta, and party the night away with the fun loving citizens of Jakarta. www.jakarta-tourism.go.id
Venice remains one of the best places on earth to usher in the New Year because when it comes to festivals, the Venetians really know how to celebrate with style, culture and artistic fl air. The La Festa di San Silvestro (New Year’s eve) celebration offers the thrill of an open-air masquerade ball with music, dance and fireworks. Locals and tourists congregate at the Piazza San Marco for a community toast that culminates with the traditional communal New Year kiss at midnight. Should you arrive earlier, you’ll witness a local custom where Venetians throw things out the windows to symbolise their spring cleaning for the New Year. Do try their traditional lentil dish on New Year’s Eve, which is believed to bring good fortune for the coming year. Should you stay for the week, January 6 is when the locals hold the Befana Races, where men dressed as women race boats along the Grand Canal. www.veneziamarketingeventi.it
Kiribati Island, Pacific Ocean
Ushering in the New Year in Kiribati Island means you’ll be the first in the world to welcome 2013. Located in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, this atoll straddles the equator and borders the International Date Line at its easternmost point, making it the first place in the world to celebrate the New Year. Kiribati is a tropical paradise that wakes up to sunrise 14 hours before London and 22 hours before Los Angeles. Every year, Kiribati spares no expense in ushering in the New Year with fireworks, music, dance, food and drinks, befitting its status and location as the first in the world to see the new sun of the New Year. Enjoy the festivities here and after the clock strikes midnight, then take a 2.5-hour flight from nearby Christmas Islands’ Cassidy International Airport to Hawaii that’s on the other side of the International Date Line. 24 hours later and you can celebrate New Year’s all over again! www.kiribatitourism.gov.ki
Celebrate your New Year’s eve with…
HISTORY at the Great Wall of China.
LOVE at Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
ARCHAEOLOGY at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
NORTHERN LIGHTS and witness the Aurora Borealis in Northern Norway.
Peculiar New Year Practices
IRELAND Single women place mistletoe leaves under their pillows on New Year’s night so they may ‘catch’ their future husbands.
MEXICO Locals hold séances to call upon the spirits of loved ones on New Year’s eve to receive guidance in life for the coming year.
PHILIPPINES Wearing polka dots on New Year’s eve is said to attract wealth and fortune as the dots symbolise coins.
DENMARK The Danes break plates on their neighbours’ or friends’ front doors. The ones with the greatest pile of broken crockery are considered to have a lucky year ahead as it means they have the most loyal friends.
GERMANY Watching the British sketch Dinner For One is a New Year’s eve tradition that the Germans have observed since 1972, making the show’s punch line “same procedure every year” quite apt.
CHILE New Year is celebrated at the cemetery. This is practised in a town called Talca where the mayor sanctions the celebration with light classical music and dim fairy lights.
BRAZIL, MEXICO, BOLIVIA The folks in these countries believe wearing brightly coloured underwear on New Year’s eve and well past midnight is a must to attract good fortune and a loving mate.
GERMANY & AUSTRIA Pouring hot molten lead into a bowl of cold water to see the shape it forms on New Year’s eve is a tradition that predicts the state of the coming year. A round or ball shape means luck, an anchor-like shape means always needing help from others, and a crosslike shape means death.
PUERTO RICO Throwing water out the window symbolises ‘out with the old and in with the new’.