New Year Festivities Across the Globe

As we look forward to the imminent New Year celebrations, we’ve taken a look at how different places around the world welcome in the year ahead.

Rio de Janerio

Over 2 million people attended 2013′s festivities in the Brazilian capital, which unites a wealth of people; rich and poor, religious and agnostic, superstitious and contemporary. The event, named Reveillon, honours the African sea goddess Iemanja, and is fittingly held on the beach, barges and shoreline apartments of Copacabana. Friends and family gather to eat, drink and be merry, just before the clocks strike – although interestingly, chicken isn’t eaten, as the bird is synonymous with a ‘backwards motion’.

Attendees wear all-white clothing to represent renewal, although colours of yellow (wealth), blue (peace), red (romance) and green (health) are also sported, with flowers, candles and perfume offered to Iemanja. Black, at a nod to superstition, is considered unlucky and not worn.

Hong Kong

A fusion of East and West, Hong Kong’s New Year celebrations take place both at the end of the year, and at the beginning of February, ‘the first lunar month’. Lights along Victoria harbour, a ball at Times Square shopping centre, and displays in districts such as Mong Kok and Kwun Tong all help get into the spirit of things, and the digital clock on the side of the International Finance Centre ensures an adrenalin-filled countdown.

Other things to note are the parade floats, flower markets, and foods of the city which help make the time special. Dishes include black moss (‘fat choi’, or ‘prosperity’) and dried oysters (‘haoshi’, or ‘good business’), and another firm favourite is ‘Tangyuan’ (‘reunion’), a sweet rice ball which symbolises the coming together of families and migrants across China.

Finally, a key custom is to offer others incense sticks, with some lighting theirs at the Wong Tai Sin temple. A temple tradition is to shake the bamboo sticks at the altar to discern which stick, and fortune attached, will be theirs. Praying for luck and fortune is also crucial during the celebrations.


New Year’s in Dubai is extravagant, impressive and elegant. Music and dance is provided on the steps of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in the downtown district, as well as a show featuring water, lights and fire, projected onto a screen 210 metres long.  An alternative is to celebrate from the rooftop of the Sanabel restaurant or the Pullman Mall, but it’s free to watch from nearby beaches Kite and Nasimi.

Meydan city, home to a grand racecourse, plays host to pop stars and performance if music is your forte, while the QE2 luxury liner, docked at Port Rashid, offers an evening of opulence and indulgence to rival royal celebrations.

The official Islamic New Year ended on the 4th November, but the United Arab Emirates still sees in the Georgian (western) New Year.  Chicken, lamb and goat accompanied by lentils and rice feature in popular recipes, and traditionally, prayer and readings take place. It is a modern tradition to give lavish gifts as well, and designer objects are usually favoured – from a Versace keffiyeh to Dior sunglasses, all essentials for the desert sun!

New York

Even without the champagne (it’s illegal to drink alcohol in the street), Times Square is one of the best places to celebrate the New Year.  Surrounded by electronic billboards, with the infamous Waterford Crystal Ball hanging above the crowd, the atmosphere is electrifying – and made even more poignant by a literal ton of confetti which falls on the stroke of midnight.  The paper used to make the confetti contains peoples written ‘wishes’ and goals for the coming year, and are shown at the nearby Museum & Visitor Centre until the celebrations.

Beginning in 1905, the same year that the first New York subway opened, the festivities were prompted by The New York Times, whose owner successfully renamed the area in honour of the publication, and wanted to commemorate their official opening.   This year promises impressive pyrotechnics, music, food and drink as well as the ‘ball drop’ – covered in over 2,600 crystal triangles and 32,000 lights.

Alternative ways to celebrate include attending a nearby concert, comedy show, or cruise, but whatever you choose, have a great New Year!

Comments are closed.