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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year’s Eve Around the World

By: Brie Cadman (View Profile)

For some, New Year’s Eve is the worst night of the year to go out and celebrate; for others, it’s the best. Either way, it is the one holiday that is celebrated—at home with friends and family or out in large crowds of strangers—around the world. Fireworks, champagne, and a midnight smooch are the usual, but various locales put their own unique twists on this festive night, making them the best in their category.

Best Place to Bless Water, Before Drinking a Caipirinha
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In Rio de Janeiro, December 31 isn’t just NYE, it is also the Fiesta de Iemanjá, or celebration of the Goddess of the Ocean. Traditionally, locals dress in white and flock to the Copacabana beach to watch fireworks and offer gifts of flowers and floating candles to the goddess; they also stay on the beach to party throughout the night.

Best Place to Do What You Can’t in the U.S.
Reykjavik, Iceland
Fireworks: everyone loves them, but here in the safety zealous U.S., we can’t personally set off much more than a sparkler or two. (Unless you live in my neighborhood in Oakland, and then you shoot off huge ones from your roof at least twice a year.) But in Reykjavik on NYE, fireworks are allowed, if not encouraged. Almost all families have a firework display; the city also sets up large bonfires around the town to add to the festive light show.

Best Sparkly Ball
New York City, NY
The most anticipated ball drop in the world is in New York City, and it’s no surprise. This year’s ball is twice the size of previous year’s, weighing 11,875 pounds, consisting of twelve-foot geodesic spheres, and covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals. It is also supposedly capable of creating more colors than ever before, so it will look much like a kaleidoscope lighting up Times Square. But be warned: the masses flock to this sparkly globe, so prepare for elbow jabs and unsolicited grabs.

Best Spot for Grape Eating
Madrid, Spain
To ring in Nochevieja in Madrid, it’s tradition for crowds to gather in the Puerta del Sol plaza. As the clock on the Casa de Correos chimes, everyone eats twelve grapes to go along with the twelve strokes of midnight. The eating of grapes happens in other parts of Spain too and in some parts of Mexico.

Best Place for a NYE Meal
Paris, France
If watching fireworks explode behind the Eifel Tower isn’t spectacular enough, the traditional NYE French feast, called le Reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, is also one of the most decadent. It includes such specialties as foie gras, lobster, oysters, and champagne (locally brewed in Champagne, France). Rumor has it that it even Parisians have a hard time finding a seat at crowded restaurants, so crashing a well-stocked party might be the way to go.

Best and First Big City
Sydney, Australia
Although Australia isn’t the first major place to ring in the New Year (the Christmas Islands, Tonga, New Zealand, and parts of the Pacific beat it), Sydney probably has the biggest “first” celebration. The party starts early around Sydney harbor, where crowds gather to watch hourly aerial flyovers. The Sydney Harbor bridge lights up with a pyrotechnic display and two sets of fireworks go off in the evening.

Best Place to Watch a Rerun
In America, we have Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life; in Germany, they have the 1920’s cult classic Dinner for One. Although the British skit isn’t popular in its home country, it’s caught on in Germany and in other parts of Europe, and has become a New Year’s tradition. Although the real party in Germany is happening at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, many people will be at home chiming in with the sketches’ repeating refrain: “The same procedure as every year.”

Don’t agree with my picks? You can go to and bet virtual money on your “biggest New Year’s Eve party locations” pick. (Currently in the lead: NYC, Rio, and “other.”)

Although many people revel with close friends and family for New Year’s, others are rubbing elbows and cheering with thousands when the clock strikes twelve. Whichever you chose, here’s to a safe, fun night and a wonderful new year!