This will be the first year I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve in another country (Iceland!), but that got me thinking – what do other countries do around the world to celebrate? Fun fact – there are 39 different local times, and completing the New Year around the globe takes 26 hours to hit all the time zones. From playing with fire to walking around in ice castles, each country has something unique about them. Whether you’re looking for a last-minute place to go for the last day of the year or are just curious what other countries do, here are some of the best places to spend New Year’s Eve.
I’m no stranger to Iceland, as I visited earlier this summer. While there are only a few hours of daylight around this time of year, it’s a pretty magical place to be. The chances of seeing the Northern Lights are good (fingers crossed!). Some tours specialize in taking you out on a snowmobile to see them. Huge bonfires will be going on during the night, and plenty of people will be out at the bars. Bundle up, drink some Brennivín (Icelandic schnapps), and watch fireworks go off all over the city.
If you love playing with fire, you’ll want to be in Ecuador for the New Year. Their tradition is making ano viejos (old year) scarecrows out of newspaper and other material, most often of people they don’t like. Sometimes a sign is put on them confessing all their sins. At midnight, watch out, because all the scarecrows will be lit on fire. It allows the people to forget all the bad that’s happened that year and start with a clean slate.
When I was researching what to do here during my upcoming visit, I was surprised to hear that Edinburgh has a huge three-day celebration each year. It’s called Hogmanay, which is the Scottish word for the last day of the year. The tradition has been going on for hundreds of years and involves a variety of events, including fireball swinging, a torchlight procession, and plenty of concerts. Drinking Scotch and carrying fire sounds either terrifying or absolutely amazing!
High on my bucket list is visiting Cape Town, South Africa to see how they celebrate the New Year. In addition to the street parties and fireworks that go on all night, they have their Kaapse Klopse festival on January 2nd. Thousands of people march down the street singing in bright costumes and carrying umbrellas. The festival celebrates the city’s history and their diverse community.
Brazil’s Rio gets all the glory as the party capital in South America, but Valparaíso, Chile is the place to be. The exchange rate is cheaper and you’ll avoid the massive crowds of Brazil. Come early to participate in “New Year’s Eve By the Sea,” their three-day festival full of fireworks and celebrations. On New Year’s Eve, they put on the world-famous Pyrotechnic Festival, which you’ll want to view from the top of a hill if possible. You’ll have some competition, though – people start claiming their spots on the hill as soon as the sun comes up on the day of.
Skip Beijing – head to Harbin on New Year’s and plan to stay for their International Ice and Snow Festival that starts on the 5th. These aren’t your typical ice sculptures either – life-size castles are created that you can actually walk in. They’re lit up in every color you can imagine, so you’ll feel like you’re in an icy Disneyland.
Besides the fact that New Zealand is stunningly beautiful, they’re also one of the first places in the world to enter the New Year. Head to the Chatham Islands to be in the second place in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve. When you wake up, you can watch all the celebrations still going on around the world! I’d love to go here for a good month to explore everything the outdoors has to offer.
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