Lonely Planet Writer

New Year's Eve: where would you like to be?

On 31 December, people around the world will celebrate the end of 2015 and get ready for the beginning of 2016.

Times Square in Manhattan on New Years.
Times Square in Manhattan on New Years. Image by Kohei Kanno / CC BY 2.0

With the International Date Line splitting up which islands in the Pacific celebrate first and last – relative neighbours like Kiribati and American Samoa celebrate almost a full day apart. The first major city to welcome the New Year is Auckland, New Zealand, while the last is Honolulu, Hawaii.

The celebration in Times Square, New York is famous for the crowds it draws to “watch the ball drop”. Amid the bright lights and bustling crowd, the famous New Year’s Eve Ball descends in front of the crowd, while millions of people watch from home.

Sydney Opera House on New Years.
Sydney Opera House on New Years. Image by Bodie Strain / CC BY 2.0

Sydney, Australia is also famous for its fireworks show above the harbour, reflecting all the lights and the famous opera house in a light-up display into the water below. Lavish light shows have become a given in most large cities like London, Tokyo, Dubai and more.

But there are many more unique celebrations around the world.

Hogmanay Firelight.
Hogmanay Firelight. Image by Peter Hunter / CC BY 2.0

In Scotland, people celebrate Hogmanay – the final day of the year – with a party that lasts until 2 January. In Edinburgh, Hogmanay is a three-day festival that draws in more than 100,000 people from all over the world. Around Scotland, the popular tradition of “first-footing” occurs. That’s where the first person to enter a house after midnight brings gifts like food or coal, which sets the tone for the year. One unique tradition is recognized in Stonehaven, Scotland, where people parade through the streets swinging balls of fire at the end of chains, which are then thrown into the harbour. Another contribution is the singing of Auld Lang Syne, by Robert Burns, a tradition that has spread around the world.

In Ecuador, the New Year is celebrated by the burning of effigies, often the likeness of notable figures from the year. Burning the año viejo, or the old year, is a symbolic way to get rid of the bad from the previous year before the new one begins. Romania has a rural tradition which has grown in popularity where people dress in bear costumes and go from house to house to chase away evil spirits.

While there is frequently enough celebrations happening at home to entertain people on New Year’s Eve, it is also a popular time for travel. According to the hotel search site Trivago UK, the most popular domestic locales for people to travel to for New Year’s in the UK is London, followed by Edinburgh and Manchester. For people who want to head abroad, Amsterdam is UK residents’ top choice, followed by Dublin, Paris, Dubai and New York.

And while people around the world will mark the beginning of the New Year – it’s only the beginning of the Gregorian calendar and many more celebrations are to come.

Chinese Lunar New Year celebrated in Macau.
Chinese Lunar New Year celebrated in Macau. Image by travel oriented / CC BY-SA 2.0

If you don’t have big plans for 31 December, this year will still bring many opportunities to celebrate a new beginning. For example, Chinese New Year will be celebrated this year on 8 February, while the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, is celebrated around March 21, and numerous other celebrations throughout the year.

Read more:

Lonely Planet’s favourite New Year’s Eve celebrations