A few years ago, while wearing a sparkly dress that had itchy sleeves and trying to keep conversation with someone who couldn’t hear my voice over a loudspeaker, I thought to myself, Why do I keep falling for this?
We all think that New Year’s Eve will be the best party of the year, but more often than not, we're disappointed. No, our night will probably not look like the party at the end of When Harry Met Sally. It’s always after we’ve spent time finding the right outfit, getting dressed, and waiting in line that we realize this, too, as if we’re hoping—against our better judgement—that the night will actually be one to remember. Instead, we countdown from 10, say cheers, and immediately wish we were in bed.
This year, we suggest you do two things: 1) Forget about the pressure to attend a big New Year’s Eve party, and 2) look into changing your scenery for the big night. We found seven places that celebrate New Year’s Eve in a different fashion than the U.S., and some don’t even get the party started for a few more weeks and months. So take notes on how this event is celebrated throughout the world, and see if you can be a part of a party that defies your expectations.
It’s common for the entrance of Japanese homes to be decorated with bamboo, pine, and plum trees for the New Year, and for rooms and clothes to be cleaned as a fresh start. Bonenkai parties are also hosted throughout December, which translates to “forget the year,” and toshikoshi soba noodles are routinely served on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of longevity. New Year’s Day usually begins at dawn with witnessing the sunrise, and most people will visit shrines and temples during the first three days of the year for moments of joy and peace.
The Ethiopian New Year actually takes place September 11, and is known as Enkutatash, or “gift of the jewels.” It commemorates when the queen of Sheba, Makeda, returned to her tribe after visiting King Solomon and was presented with a welcome present of sparkling gems. This is the time of year when the rainy season gives way to blue skies and blossoms, and most homes celebrate the eve of the event with lit torches at their entrances. The holiday is marked by dancing and singing, and families share traditional coffee and beer as they present one another with paintings and flowers.
January 1 is a public holiday in China—and there are fireworks on New Year’s Eve—but the event doesn’t carry the same significance as it does in America. Instead, the Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and falls on the new moon between January 21 and February 20. This period is traditionally celebrated for 16 days, and the routines vary across the country. Northern Chinese families often celebrate with dumplings, for instance, while those in southern China usually eat spring rolls. Setting off firecrackers and giving red envelopes are customary, too.
Most Germans will say cheers to a new year with sekt, or sparkling wine, at midnight surrounded by family and friends—or will drink cups of the popular alcoholic punch known as bowle. It’s also common to pass out small gifts of good-luck charms, which can include ladybugs, mushrooms, or four-leaf clover figurines. Lastly, many Germans like to eat carp for dinner on New Year’s Eve, since it’s also seen as a good luck charm.
New Year’s Day in Iran is known as Nowruz—and it’s celebrated on the vernal equinox in accordance with the Persian New Year. In 2018, for example, Nowruz took place March 20. The date coincides with the beginning of spring, and preparations for the event start about three weeks beforehand, when everyone painstakingly cleans their homes. Families will also use this time to start fresh by setting aside different items that symbolize various hopes, such as health, rebirth, and beauty. Once Nowruz arrives, the celebration stretches for 13 days to include family visits, reflections, bonfires, and lots of food.
The common Spanish stereotype of staying up late is true for New Year’s—but only after midnight. Most people stay in with family to celebrate the coming of midnight quietly, and then they go out to party until sunrise. It’s also important to eat a dozen green grapes right as the clock strikes 12. Each grape is meant to symbolize good luck for each month of the coming year. Last fun fact: Spaniards will also wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve for another token of luck.
Colombians also eat 12 grapes at midnight, but here’s where they make their own traditions: Some Colombians will welcome the New Year with cash in hand—for the hope of financial security in the coming months—or will take a suitcase on a walk around the block for hopes to travel. Colombians will also make a doll stuffed with fireworks, which will be lit after midnight to symbolize the end of the previous year.