By JASON LALOUX
Looking for an exciting, unforgettable experience? Try spending New Year’s Eve in a foreign country. The festive atmosphere gives everything a magic sheen, whether you’re staying with a family or at a five-star hotel. Also, if you’ve ever dreamed of gathering friends or family and grabbing one of those luxury villa rentals somewhere in Europe, now is the perfect time.
New Year’s customs in different countries are as wildly diverse as the people inhabiting them, and that’s what makes the whole idea so special. Take a look through this list of unique celebrations, and if something excites you, book a ticket. You won’t regret it.
Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and takes place between mid-January and mid-February. Houses are cleaned and all old debts are settled, symbolizing a kind of purification in preparation for the New Year.
Front doors are also often painted red, as this color brings good luck and happiness. And all knives are stashed away for 24 hours to keep anyone from cutting themselves, as this “cuts” the family’s good luck for the following year.
The celebration of Oshogatsu is important enough to close down all businesses and shops in Japan. Straw ropes are hung outside of homes to ward off evil spirits, and people begin to laugh hysterically when the clock strikes midnight. This is believed to make old worries disappear and ensure the coming year is a happy one.
Burma and Thailand
These Southeast Asian nations actually celebrate each New Year in mid-April with three-day festivals that are tied to the coming rainy season. Buildings and temples are washed, and people throw water on one another to welcome the heavy rains and hope they will be beneficial to all.
People drop molten lead into cold water, then read its shape to foretell their future. A bit of New Year’s Eve food is left on the plate until after midnight, as a way of ensuring abundance in the coming year.
Throughout the year, people save old dishes in order to toss them at the front doors of dear friends on New Year’s Eve. A large pile of broken dishes outside your front door signifies a happy life full of many friends.
Here they practice the curious custom of first footing. Essentially, the first male visitor to enter a home after midnight is supposed to bring good luck. He is also charged with bringing gifts such as money, bread or coal, to ensure there will be enough of these in the coming year. But this first male visitor will not be allowed in if he is either blond or red-haired, as these supposedly bring bad luck.
Spain, Portugal, and South America
Once the clock strikes midnight, everyone eats twelve grapes to bring good luck for the next twelve months of the New Year.
Several nations in South America have an additional tradition of wearing brightly colored underpants. Wearing red means one is searching for love in the New Year, while yellow underpants are for those seeking money.
Perhaps the best-known tradition in the USA is the dropping of the New Year’s ball in Times Square, New York City. Thousands crowd the square, and millions more watch on television as a giant Waterford Crystal ball makes a one-minute descent at exactly 11:59 p.m.
Jason Laloux is a freelance travel writer. When he’s not planning his next surfing vacation, you might find him being a cosmopolitan hedonist and devouring haute cuisine from around the world. His favorite travel destination include Costa Rica, France, and Las Vegas.