For many cultures, New Year’s Eve may offer the perfect opportunity to start afresh. The New Year is celebrated in many different ways; in London there are countless celebratory parties, and the renowned fireworks at Westminster attract scores of visitors each year. The grand backdrop of Big Ben and the London Eye is enhanced by the reflection in the Thames, making for a beautiful display. Throughout the world, many countries hold their own cultural traditions for calling in the New Year.
Venice is a popular romantic travel destination year-round, and for New Year’s Eve it plenty to offer. Perhaps the most famous of the New Year’s celebrations in Venice are the ones held in Piazza San Marco, or St Mark’s Square. Visitors can expect a beautiful scene with music, and a mass kiss-in at midnight. Rung in by the bells of the Campanile di San Marco, the New Year is then welcomed by a brilliant fireworks display.
Elsewhere in Europe, the people of Spain have their own unique cultural custom to encourage the New Year to be good to them. At the stroke of midnight, twelve grapes must be eaten – one at each strike of the clock. It is said that for those who eat all twelve of the grapes on time, a year filled with happiness, luck, and prosperity will follow. In Madrid, the Puerta del Sol Square hosts lively celebrations where many people dress up and come together to eat the lucky grapes, and celebrate the New Year with music, confetti and toasting.
In Tokyo and throughout Japan, Hatsumode takes place during New Year. Hatsumode marks the first visit of the year to a shrine or temple. At the most popular shrines and temples big celebrations are held, where the temple bells are rung ceremoniously at midnight, surrounded by food stands and many people praying. It is customary for Japanese people to have a lucky charm for each year, and then for Hatsumode to get dressed up and visit the celebrations, where they may dispose of last year’s lucky charm and buy a new charm for the New Year.
In nearby Manila, the Filipino celebrations for New Year’s Eve are plentiful. From leaving doors open at the stroke of midnight to allow good luck to enter the home, to dressing in polka dots to signify prosperity, Filipino traditions are strong. New Year’s Eve in the Philippines is a noisy affair – whistles are blown, tin cans on string are pulled around, and pots and pans are banged in order to make as much noise as possible to ward away any unwanted spirits.
In America, New Year’s Eve celebrations are plentiful and diverse due to the many different nationalities and cultures that have settled and are living within the United States. The New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York are most famous for the New Year ball drop in Times Square at 11.59pm. Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists gather in Times Square to watch the ball make its 60-second descent.
In a neighbourhood in downtown Johannesburg, there is a unique New Year’s Eve tradition. Residents stockpile old household appliances – from microwaves and sofas, to fridges and televisions – and the appliances are then thrown from the top of the buildings that reside in this built-up, urban area. This tradition leaves the streets of this Johannesburg district vacant on December 31st, as people try to avoid the falling appliances.
New Year’s Eve traditions in Finland try to make predictions as to the upcoming year. The most unusual of the Finnish New Year’s cultural tradition sees a molten tin being placed into a container of cold water. The shape that the tin forms as it cools and sets is then interpreted, to make a prediction for the year ahead.
From Europe to Asia, to Africa and America, New Year’s Eve offers an ideal opportunity for people around the world to come together in a celebration that spans across cultures. The variation in the traditions and customs that are held across the globe truly highlights the vibrancy and diversity of culture.
Which other countries have strong cultural New Year’s Eve celebrations?