The celebration of the New Year is a tradition eagerly enjoyed by people all over the world. Although everyone seems to have their own traditions for New Years, the theme of “new beginnings” rings true no matter where you find yourself celebrating. In many countries, New Year’s Eve is celebrated at large parties where people dance and drink their way to midnight amongst dear friends, sparklers, fireworks and sequins.
The parties typically go well past midnight into January 1st, refered to as New Year’s Day. One of the most notable New Year’s celebrations is held in New York City’s Time Square. Every year more than one million people gather in the heart of New York City to watch popular musical acts perform hit songs in the lead-up to midnight, at one of the largest outdoor parties in the world. The big moment begins at 11:59pm when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball begins its descent from atop a flagpole. When it completes its drop at the strike of midnight to the sounds of people all over the world counting down alongside it, crowds erupt into cheers as confetti rains through the sky and friends and family embrace to welcome the new year. Over 20 million people watch the events unfold on television every year.
Europe also knows how to throw a rockin’ New Year’s Eve of its own. In London, England millions of locals will line the Thames waterfront and gather in Trafalgar Square to eagerly await the strike of midnight, the time when Big Ben erupts with fireworks timed to the 12 strokes of the hour. Then it’s the London Eye’s turn to dazzle onlookers with a serious display of swirling fireworks set to some fantastic British rock.
In Sweden, those celebrating the new year sit down to a special three course dinner prior to midnight. You could say the Swedish really like to “class it up” when it comes to how they ring in the new year. During these dinners they use their finest dinnerware, wear their nicest outfits and discuss the year past and the year ahead. At midnight, people can tune into a live broadcast from Stockholm’s Skansen open-air museum to watch the bells chime and listen to a special New Year’s verse that is read out loud for all to hear. Fireworks are set off all across the country and anyone over 18 can buy them in local stores or from private sellers the day of. Make sure to sample your fair share of rice pudding, because whoever finds an almond hidden inside can expect the next 12 months to bring them good fortune!
Down under, the Aussies throw one heck of a party in Sydney, Australia. At midnight, countless people line the city’s waterfront to ring in the New Year. As midnight hits, one of the world’s most spectacular fireworks displays begins outside Sydney Harbour Bridge and the surrounding buildings.
Of course not everyone celebrates the New Year on January 1st. For instance, both the Jews and the Chinese adhere to different calendars: the Hebrew and Lunar calendars respectively. The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah and falls on different dates every year. Chinese New Year also falls on different dates depending on the start of the second New Moon.
You want to celebrate the start of a new year a specific way? Well there’s a country guaranteed to satisfy your wildest desires!
As you can probably tell, New Year’s has some very diverse traditions depending on where you call home. It seems as if everyone has had their hands in the pot throughout the centuries to bring us to an almost universal date (and style) of celebration. But where did it all begin?
The earliest recorded celebrations in honour of the arrival of the new year can be dated back to Ancient Babylon. The Babylonians considered the first new moon that followed the vernal equinox to be the beginning of the new year. They would hold a massive festival called Akitu that celebrated the victory of the mythical sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat. As calendars grew more sophisticated throughout antiquity, patterns were recognized and with that came new traditions celebrating important events.
Early renditions of the Roman calendar left out January and February (likely a smart move we might want to revisit) and it wasn’t until the reign of King Pompilius that these months were added. Eventually the calendar fell out of sync with the sun and in 46 B.C. Emperor Caesar called on his best mathematicians and astronomers to introduce the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the calendar we currently hold dear today. Caesar then introduced January 1st at the first day of the year which was appropriate as the month’s name is derived from the Roman god of Janus, the god of new beginnings.
There would then be a brief time in Medieval Europe when Christian leaders changed the date of the new year from January 1st to resemble their own beliefs, but eventually this decision was reversed by Pope Gregory XIII.
How to Get There
If you’re spending New Year’s in New York you can fly into John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), but if possible, it’s suggested you fly directly to Newark International Airport (EWR) as it’s actually closer to the City than JFK.
Spending New Year’s in Sydney? Fly directly to Sydney Airport (SYD), it’s only 8km south of the city centre.
Celebrating the big night in London, England? Fly to Heathrow Airport (LHR) for the most direct access to the city. You can catch the tube (metro, subway) directly from the airport.
Should you find yourself in Stockholm, Sweden, you’ll want to fly into Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN). From here you can catch the Arlanda express train to the city centre and the train departs every 15 minutes. It’s recommended that you stay in the neighbourhoods of Vasastan, Kingsholmen and Ladugardsgardet to be close to the action of the city centre and the beautiful waterfront.
Where to Stay
Considering there’s a near infinite amount of destinations of where you can ring in the new year, it’s difficult to tell you exactly where you can stay. Ask yourself, are you planning on going to a specific event like the ball drop at Times Square? If that’s the case, do your research and plan your route ahead of time. Avoid taking Uber or ride-sharing apps that charge surge prices since you’ll be guaranteed to get gouged on this day.
Stay close to major public transit lines so that you can enjoy your new year’s with a glass (or two, or three) of champagne in hand, worry-free!
Be prepared to book any accommodations far in advance to secure your spot. Hotels in Time Square always sell out!