As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, millions of eyes across the USA and around the world will be focused on Times Square, waiting for the sparkling Waterford Crystal ball to drop to kick off the New Year. Fireworks, kisses and champagne will be part of the celebration, too. But the crystal ball in Times Square isn’t the only way to celebrate the New Year. Our Globetrotting Traveling Grandmom has found some unusual New Year’s Eve traditions around the world.
A New Year’s Coming and It’s Time to Celebrate
Before I moved to New York, experiencing New Year’s Eve in Times Square was on my bucket list. But then I witnessed the millions of tourists lining up in the cold long before midnight. And I learned there are no bathrooms available. That celebration is off my bucket list — I can see the ball anytime I want and that’s good enough.
But the New York New Year’s Eve celebration is arguably one of the most well-known celebrations in the world. Other familiar celebrations include Sydney, Australia, where the stroke of midnight is met with dazzling fireworks erupting from barges on the water in Sydney Harbor illuminating the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. In Paris, the biggest party is on the Champs-Elysees, with a close-up view of the Eiffel Tower—and, champagne, of course. In Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is the place to be for a spectacular fireworks display to ring in the New Year. With beer, of course. But there are numerous other celebrations and traditions that you may not be familiar with—and some are really unusual.
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Balls aren’t the only thing dropping around the USA
While New York is dropping an 11,875 pound ball covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, other cities have found inventive (and probably less expensive) alternatives. In New Orleans, a fleur-de-lis is dropped in Jackson Square, while a spectacular fireworks show erupts over the Mississippi River. In Mobile, Alabama, a 600-pound electronic Moon Pie is the drop item of choice. Yes, a Moon Pie. In Atlanta, it should come as no surprise that the object dropped is a peach – and it’s the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in the southeastern USA. Meanwhile in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania—a place that produces over a million pounds of mushrooms each week—a 500-pound stainless steel mushroom is dropped 85 feet to the ground to mark the New Year.
In Brazil it’s about a party and flowers
In Rio de Janerio everyone wears white for New Year’s Eve. Of course there’s a massive party – no surprise for Brazil; it is Rio after all—and there’s a tradition of tossing flowers into the ocean as a gift to Lemanja, the goddess of the sea. If the flowers float away, you’ll have good luck in the coming year. But if the flowers float back, bad luck is in your future. Most Brazilians don’t stick around to see what happens with their floral gifts. I get that – just go back to the party and don’t worry about what’s coming.
Choose your underwear carefully in South America
In many South American countries, the color of your underwear on New Year’s Eve has a meaning. If you wear yellow underwear, you will have increased prosperity in the coming year. If you wear red underwear, you’ll find love. Also, if you carry a suitcase around with you, you’ll be able to travel in the coming year. Choose wisely folks!
Ecuador has the right idea
Ecuador has a celebration I could come to embrace. During “los años viejos” (the old years), people make large scarecrow-like dolls of the people they dislike—including politicians. Some of the dolls are wearing signs that detail their transgressions. They beat these dummies and at midnight, everyone lights them on fire in an effort to get rid of their bad spirits. Can you imagine this in our country’s current political environment?
Also in Ecuador, “vuidas” (the widows) are men that dress as women and beg for beer money. Kids dress up too and beg for candy. I’m not sure which one is more concerning.
Even stranger New Year’s Eve Celebrations
If a Moon Pie drop, colorful underwear and burning dummies aren’t enough, consider these strange New Year’s Eve celebrations. In Romania, farmers attempt to communicate with their cows on New Year’s Eve. If they succeed it is thought to be bad luck. My question is why would they try?
Meanwhile the Peruvians take matters into their own hands—or fists. During the annual Takanakuy festivals in small Peruvian villages, residents resort to fist fights to settle their differences. It is believed the fighting will allow them to start the New Year with a clean slate. Sounds like the high altitude might be getting the best of them.
Wishing you a Happy New Year
Whether your New Year’s Eve celebration includes objects dropping from the sky, talking cows, floating flowers, burning dummies or a fist fight, I hope it’s a happy one!