New Year Celebrations around the World

Updated: 12/30/2019

It really doesn’t matter where you are in the world: one tradition we all share is ringing in the New Year at midnight (local time). People around the world come together to say goodbye to the old and usher in the new, complete with new resolutions, new hopes, and new dreams. But while New Year’s Eve celebrations may be universal, cultures around the world have made the holiday their own.


Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa


Where to Celebrate

Cape Town, South Africa, is among the top places in the world to celebrate the New Year. With celebrations across the city, there is something for everyone. Beautiful weather in their summer means you won’t have to worry about the cold. Relaxing with a picnic on Table Mountain will give you a perfect view of the midnight fireworks over the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

For a truly unique way to ring in the New Year, there’s the beautiful and adventurous Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe—one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The Vic Falls Carnival takes place over three days and includes concerts with some of the biggest artists in the region, a party on a steam train, and, of course, blood-pumping activities like bungee jumping and white water rafting.

Local Traditions

Be careful when you’re walking around the street of Johannesburg, South Africa, on New Year’s Eve. The tradition is not as common these days, but you may encounter furniture being thrown out of windows. This custom symbolizes “out with the old and in with the new.”

Children in Madagascar greet neighborhood adults with handshakes as they walk door to door on New Year’s Day. In exchange for the greeting, children receive candy and later use the wrapper as play money.


The beautiful scenery of Antarctica


Where to Celebrate 

I bet you didn’t think we’d have Antarctica on this list, but those who live and work on the research stations of the continent have developed their own celebrations and traditions. If you can make your way down to McMurdo Station then you can partake in IceStock. For the past twenty-seven years, local residents have been performing in the all-day, outdoor music festival to ring in the New Year.

For the more temporary crowd, many tour companies have New Year’s Eve cruises in Antarctica. It is the middle of summer at the bottom of the earth, and these cruises boast accessible wildlife and the midnight sun as a worthy way to ring in the New Year. But if you really want a one-of-a-kind way to celebrate the New Year, start saving now for a twelve-and-a-half-hour flight from either Melbourne or Sydney, Australia, down to Antarctica. The flight makes its way over the continent at midnight and includes a jazz band and plenty of bubbly.

Local Traditions

At the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, the residents have a unique tradition: moving the South Pole. Because it sits on a bed of shifting ice, the South Pole drifts about thirty feet each year. On January 1, station staff gather around to help move the Pole, flag, and marker to its proper location.


Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE


Where to Celebrate 

I may be a little biased—having studied abroad in Hong Kong—but Victoria Harbour is home to one of the most iconic skylines in the world, and the city is known for its New Year’s Eve fireworks set to music. Fireworks are launched from all directions—on land and sea—ensuring a stunning show. If you’re on the Kowloon side, near Tsim Sha Tsui, there’s a street party that starts a couple of hours before midnight. You won’t want to miss it!

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, and it is center stage for Dubai’s New Year’s Eve celebration. More than a million people gather downtown every year to view the breathtaking show. Until 2018, organizers launched fireworks from the top and sides of the building before switching to a laser and light show that was no less spectacular—it set a Guinness World Record. This year will see a return to a traditional fireworks show.

Local Traditions

Lobsters are important in Japan and symbolize longevity, so it isn’t unusual to see paper lobsters decorating homes for the New Year.

Wearing brightly colored polka dots are customary in the Philippines, where the circle represents prosperity.


Sydney Harbour


Where to Celebrate

While it is not actually the first place around the globe to ring in the New Year (that honor belongs to the Pacific island of Tonga), Sydney, Australia, usually gets the press. Sydney Harbour is the place to be. Not only is it summer Down Under—so you don’t have to worry about the arctic blasts and snow—you’ll be able to enjoy the “Harbor of Light” parade and the midnight fireworks display (of over 80 thousand fireworks) experienced in person by more than a million people and watched all around the world by billions more.

If you want to be in the first city in the world to celebrate the New Year, then you’ll need to head to Gisborne, New Zealand, and the country’s biggest celebration, the Rhythm and Vines music festival. This three-day festival, attended by more than 20 thousand people from all over the world, culminates with ringing in the New Year.

Local Traditions

It’s not uncommon in Australia for many to visit the church, and it is customary for churches to announce the New Year by ringing their bells at midnight. The tradition has extended around the globe for centuries.

People in New Zealand celebrate outdoors to enjoy the summer weather. Visiting the beach, having a picnic, or attending outdoor parties are common traditions for many.


St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square


Where to Celebrate

While New York’s Times Square may be on most people’s bucket lists, they’re missing out on one of the most famous and biggest fireworks display in the world, held in Edinburgh, Scotland. Known as Hogmanay, this three-day festival—and accompanying traditions—is thought to have originated with the Vikings in the eighth and ninth centuries. Commencing with a Torchlight Procession, concerts and parties fill New Year’s Eve until fireworks are shot over Edinburgh Castle at midnight.

Russia takes New Year’s celebrations seriously, and it is one of their biggest nights of the year. Moscow’s main fireworks display can be seen over the Moscow River, though there are seventeen different fireworks displays around the city. The most famous place to view the fireworks is in Red Square. It will be very crowded (and cold), but the fireworks display over the historically and culturally significant backdrop of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin will be worth it.

Local Traditions

In Spain, eating twelve grapes—one at each toll of the clock as it strikes midnight—is customary. Each of the twelve grapes represents one month of good luck in the coming year. But in order for the tradition to be successful, all grapes must be eaten by the final toll. This custom extends to many South American countries as well.

In Germany and Finland, some look to molten lead to predict the coming year. Lead is heated in a spoon before being poured into cold water. The resulting shape is a sign of what’s to come.

Some traditions are culinary. Lobsters may be good luck in Japan, but in Croatia, it is bad luck to have lobster or crab on New Year’s Eve as they move backward or sideways which superstition says will lead to setbacks in the coming year. There they stick to pork, which many consider lucky.


The beautiful Niagara Falls

North America

Where to Celebrate

Arguably, the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration is held every year in New York City’s Times Square. Visitors from all over the world stand outside for hours in the cold for a chance to see the ball drop at midnight. But it’s not the only place to celebrate in North America. In Niagara Falls, Ontario, head to Queen Victoria Park where you can experience—with about 40 thousand other people—the largest, free concert and fireworks displays (there are two!) in Canada. Don’t forget to check out the falls, illuminated in gorgeous colors for the occasion.

If you want a real New Year’s Eve party, head down to Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Live music, fireworks, and a fleur-de-lis drop as the clock strikes midnight is just the beginning of the celebration. New Orleans is known for its jazz, booze, and culinary delights. It’s sure to guarantee a memorable night.

Local Traditions

Lentils are an important New Year’s tradition in Mexico. Whether it’s spreading lentils outside the door, eating lentils at midnight, or giving a handful of lentils to guests, the legume is said to bring prosperity in the coming year.

In Puerto Rico, throwing buckets of water out the window is said to drive evil spirits away. This is generally done in tandem with cleaning the house to cleanse away the old year.


The world-famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

South America

Where to Celebrate

The famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the site of a spectacular fireworks display. It’s the middle of summer, so the outdoor celebration starts early with a variety of musical acts and lasts all night long. Many customs are observed throughout the night but one firm tradition is to wear white.

The coastal city of Valparaíso, Chile, has one of the biggest celebrations in South America. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city shuts off its lights, and fireworks are set off along the harbor at midnight, creating a breathtaking show. After the fireworks, the party continues all night long with musical performances in the Plaza Sotomayor.

Local Traditions

This might not be the best way to express one’s anger or hatred, but it’s also not the worst: In Ecuador, papier-mâché effigies (called Monigotes) of all sizes are built by families and communities. Constructed in the likeness of someone disliked—usually, a public figure—the effigies are burnt on New Year’s Eve to symbolize getting rid of the bad from the past year.

Hoping that special someone will notice you? It is customary for those seeking love in Bolivia to stand up and sit down twelve times before tying a red ribbon around the picture of the one they love and sleeping with it under their pillow.

In the small town of Talca, Chile, locals celebrate New Year’s Eve in the cemetery with their deceased loved ones.


What are some of your New Year traditions? My family’s New Year’s Day dinner consists of pork, black-eyed peas, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes—meant to bring good fortune, long life, and prosperity. Comment below and tell us about yours!


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