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The best places to spend the New Year


Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind. Yes, it’s that time of year again already—when people start asking you what you’ll be doing on New Year’s Eve with the expectation that you’ll be having the night of the year. These are some of the world’s biggest parties to give you an idea of what to do—or at least of what to say you’ll be doing.

New York’s Times Square has to be first on the list because it’s probably the most famous. All the biggest events are going to be thronged with people waiting for the final countdown—in this case accompanied by the dropping of a 1,070 pound Waterford Crystal Ball down a pole—but you’re there for the atmosphere and the chance to usher the New Year in with goodwill for all mankind! In Times Square, expect your goodwill to mingle with that of about a million others, not counting people watching on TV—that’s a lot of goodwill.

London has celebrations along the same lines in Trafalgar Square and a fireworks display along the Thames around the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. Revellers pack into small spaces, which is useful because it helps keep out the cold, and the fireworks usually warm everyone up. There’s family firework early in the evening—the New Year comes early to under 12’s.

In Sydney, the cold isn’t a problem and the harbour is lit with colour in the moments before and after midnight as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House cascade with fireworks. Warm humour for all mankind is certainly easier in the warm weather and there are some great New Year parties raging though Sydney, followed by some famous recovery parties at Bondi. Auckland is the first major city to celebrate New Year, but its easterly neighbour Gisborne catches the first rays of the New Year’s sun after spending the evening celebrating with a Rhythm & Vines Concert.
Rio de Janeiro’s biggest party is Carnival but New Year on Copacabana Beach is a close second. Water is an important element to New Year celebrations here because it’s also the time to celebrate the Festa de Iemanja, the festival of the water goddess, mother of all gods. Nearby Sao Paulo is known for its New Year’s Day marathon but on the big night head to the Copa for about 20 minutes of fireworks and parties till dawn and beyond with about two and a half million other revellers.
Berlin parties around the Brandenburg Gate—expect the kind of DJ fuelled dance parties this city is well known for, while Paris says Bonne Annee! along the Champs-Elysees and exchanges bises—small kisses on the cheeks—on Sacre Coeur’s hill for a perfect view of the fireworks that dazzle even the city of lights.

Moscow‘s Red Square under the Saviour Clock tower is the place to be, but you do have to be wary of the metal detectors and security, so for a less strict approach pop round the back of St. Basil’s Cathedral for the best view of the fireworks, which are set off behind it. Reykjavik has long evenings at this time of year—all the better for getting out of town and spending New Year’s Eve in front of the natural sky show of the Northern Lights—but in town people go to mass at Reykjavik Cathedral, also the highest spot in the city and the best place to see the man-made fireworks, before hitting the party circuit.
Toronto puts on a good show in the sky as well before adjourning home to watch the football on the box on New Year’s Day, and Hong Kong warms up for it’s main celebrations for Chinese New Year in a couple of months time, centring its parties around Times Square Shopping Mall and Victoria Bay, so the best views are from Victoria Peak.

In Madrid people gather round the Puerta del Sol where tradition dictates the eating of a grape for each of the twelve (((bongs))) of the big bell—not as easy as it may sound—and the wearing of yellow underwear. In Tokyo the Buddhist bells ring 108 times in the lead up to midnight so it’s lucky they don’t observe the same grape eating traditions. Here the done thing is to clean your home, visit a shrine and watch a singing competition between male and female celebrities on TV—seriously, the competitions been happening for the last 50 years.

But as far as New Year’s parties go the Scots probably take it most seriously. In Edinburgh, they call it Hogmanay, a celebration which culminates with cannons firing over Edinburgh Castle and the singing of the Robbie Burns classic the rest of the world has adopted.

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