As the wise kiddos of The O.C. once told us, how you spend New Year’s Eve is the same way you’ll spend the rest of the year. So, if you want to avoid revisiting that awkward high school basement thing, and if you can scrounge up enough Christmas cash for a plane ticket, try checking out one of the following locales for a truly memorable (and rockin’) New Year’s Eve.
New York City
Here in America, Times Square offers the definitive New Year’s Eve experience, one that we have come to associate with champagne flowing freely, celebs running wild, and Ryan Seacrest cheesing for the camera. When the clock strikes midnight in New York City, the whole country, regardless of time zone, watches as the brilliant ball drops and confetti flutters in the air. Everyone has Times Square New Year’s bash on his or her bucket list, so live like you’re dying and make 2013 the year that you check it off the list. Many smaller traditions prevail across the rest of America, too.
The main event of London’s New Year’s Eve tradition centers around Big Ben, which we suppose is fitting for a holiday based entirely on an intensely enthusiastic countdown to a single moment. Hundreds of thousands of spectators gather to watch as fireworks blast off on either side of the clock tower, illuminating both the majestic Big Ben and the nearby London Eye. The fireworks near the famed Ferris wheel usually last upwards of 10min. and are timed to perfection with music from England’s most famous artists (you know, groups like the Beatles and Queen). Fireworks are big all across Europe as many old-timer Europeans (we’re not talking grandparents—old-timer as in Norse gods) believed in celebrating the darkest moments of winter with huge displays of fire. Feel free to get spirited in one of London’s countless pubs, but the hangover better not last long the next morning—the city’s famous New Year’s Day Parade starts just before noon.
European settlers brought their beliefs over with them when they settled the Great White North. So, like many countries around the world, Canada kicks off the New Year by lighting up the sky like Katy Perry and her band of misfits. In the bigger cities of the majestic north, New Year’s looks a lot like the rest of the world: big venue concerts, late-night partying, and getting a little tipsy on whiskey-gingers. Farther north, however, many Canadians spend the whole night ice fishing and drinking with their pals.
Mexico might take the fruitcake for having the most awesome traditions for ringing in the New Year. With every chime of the midnight bells, Mexican families eat a grape while making twelve different wishes. Many also decorate their houses with different colors to indicate various hopes for the New Year: green to bring in the Benjamins, white for health, red for love and improved lifestyles, and yellow for new employment opportunities. And for all you easily excited pyromaniacs out there, some Mexicans write out a list of all the bad things that took place in the previous year and throw it into the fire right before midnight, removing negative feelings from the New Year. Mexico’s New Year’s festivities tend to carry on long past midnight, with people heading out for an evening on the town after late-night family celebrations.
Welcome, Toshigami! Welcoming the Shinto god of the New Year comprises most of the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Japan as people tidy up their homes and prepare food and decorations for their celebrations. At the stroke of midnight, Buddist temples ring out and bells clang 108 times to represent the each of the elements that lead people into sin. Japan also has been airing a national celebrity music showdown for 62 years on New Year’s Eve (it’s basically the Grammys meets American Idol, sans Seacrest and plus a lot of awesome). In Tokyo, people gather around a beloved temple and released helium balloons filled with their wishes for the New Year up into the sky.