Huge parties with fascinating firework displays, or more traditional ways to welcome the upcoming year: people all around the world, with different cultures and customs, will have all kinds of different plans tonight for New Year’s Eve. As we go through the transition from December 31 of 2019 to January 1 of 2020, I wish you a wonderful year in which you may experience life to the fullest.
Australia welcomes the new year during the summer. This is hard to imagine for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, who associate New Year’s celebrations with cold and snow. People in Australia, however, share picnics with their friends and enjoy their drinks on the beach while they wait for the big show to start. At midnight, an incredible fireworks display is launched from the Sydney Harbor Bridge; more than a million people head there and gather by the waterfront to watch it. Some even take a boat and experience the show from the water.
Moving far to the north, we see how committed the Danes are to their New Year’s Eve traditions. Danish people get together that night in their homes and eat a tower of marzipan doughnuts called kransekage. When the tower is tipped on its side, chocolates and other treats spill out. The Danes’ way of ringing the neighbor’s doorbell that night, though, is pretty unusual. People break plates in front of the doors of their loved ones on New Year’s Eve as a way to protect them from bad luck during the coming year.
Brazilians use the number seven as a symbol of the wealth and prosperity that they want to attract during the upcoming year. Seven pomegranate seeds are eaten; people jump over seven waves in the ocean and make seven wishes at each jump. For many, the ocean is also a medium connecting them with Lemanja, the Brazilian goddess of the sea. People wear white and throw white flowers into the ocean for her acceptance. Speaking of Brazil, we should not forget the city of Rio de Janerio, for the lively festivities and New Year’s parties there.
Ecuadorians have two very interesting ways of preparing for the new year, which consist in symbolically getting rid of the past and getting ready for the future. At midnight, they set fire to scarecrows filled with paper, believing that this is a way to liberate themselves from the bad things that happened in the previous year. They also burn photographs and anything else that doesn’t fill their hearts with joy. As for the future, in December you can see many Ecuadorians running around with empty suitcases, symbolizing their openness to the things that the New Year will bring.
The Buddhist tradition in Japan is displayed in a countdown of 108 chimes of the temple bells on New Year’s Eve. It is believed that these chimes can banish all human sins. A very different way of celebrating New Year’s Eve is found in the tradition of eating a bowl of toshikoshi soba, a type of noodle. While Japanese cuisine already has some incredibly unique dishes, on this evening we see an even more special meal filled with symbolism. There are many different explanations of what each ingredient may represent, but the most common suggests that the long noodle denotes crossing from one year to the next.
During New Year’s Eve in Johannesburg you may well be keeping watch to avoid furniture that falls from above at random intervals. In South Africa, people mark the transition from one year to the next by throwing furniture out their windows: a New Year’s ritual that they perform with the intent of opening a fresh page in their lives. Apart from interesting traditions such as this, South Africans also put on a huge celebration in Cape Town, culminating in the midnight fireworks display at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. People party there opposite the beautiful scenery of Table Mountain and enjoy watching the fireworks light up the sky above it.