World's Best New Year's Celebrations

World's Best New Year's Celebrations

misterbisson, flickr

Forget the same old countdown and fireworks display. For a truly original New Year's celebration, you'll find an explosion of local culture at these fêtes.

10. Hogmanay and First-Footing, Edinburgh, Scotland

The feral New Year's Eve booze fest of Hogmanay is Scotland's unofficial birthday, with street performers, musicians and dancers circling Edinburgh Castle, and wandering the length of Prince's Street. Fireworks begin on the seven hills surrounding the castle at midnight as over 100,000 partiers break into a chorus of Scot Robbie Burns' "Auld Lang Syne." By New Year's Day's first-footing, Scots continue the festivities, visiting friends' houses to be the first across the threshold to drink away a hangover.

9. Cosmopolitan Hotel Grand Opening, Las Vegas

Las Vegas is party-central 365 days a year, so why should New Year's be any different? To ring in 2011, Jay-Z and Coldplay are headlining the grand opening of the $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan hotel as if it were the last party Las Vegas would ever throw, so expect a celebrity studded all-night bash. And the stars aren't just on stage. Mega-chefs such as José Andrés, Scott Conant, and LA's David Myers will open kitchens for 2011.

Strangest New Years Eve Celebrations

DeusXFlorida, flickr

8. Junkanoo Parade, Bahamas

Festooned in neon feather headdresses, costumes of glitter and gold, and the occasional teenie-weenie bikini, the street dancers marching in the Bahamas' Junkanoo Parades know a thing or two about celebrating freedom. A tradition from the days of the slave trade, the story goes that "John Canoe" would not allow his slaves to have fun, so they would hide in the bushes and dance in costumes made from the leaves and feathers they found. The parade is now held on New Year's Day, feverishly out in the open for everyone to see.

7. First Light, Christmas Island, Kiribati

The small island nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific is the first inhabited place to see in the New Year. In 1995, the country moved the International Date Line far to the east so that the entire country would be on the same calendar day at the same time. (Before this, Mt. Hakepa on New Zealand's Pitt Island caught the New Year first.) Lavish private yachts and cruisers will gather in the calm harbors off Christmas Island on New Year's Eve to claim exclusive credit for discovering 2011.

6. Polar Bear Club Swim, Coney Island, Brooklyn

Though the instructions say "bring warm clothes," warmth is not the object at Coney Island's annual Polar Bear Club plunge into the North Atlantic Ocean. The fundraising swim brings in several thousand dollars annually directed to camps for kids with disabilities. So, strip down to your skivvies -- no wetsuits allowed -- and start freezing for a noble reason this New Year's Day.

5. Ski Show, Kitzbühel, Austria

If the notion of a ski school hosting a torch-lit ski show sounds like a sweet but ho-hum addendum to a firework's display, think again. The Kitzbühel Ski School in the Tyrolean Alps trains Olympic quality skiers. With ski poles and skis aflame, the instructors and experts at the academy take to the ski jump, where they do daredevil jumps, twists, turns and flip-flops. The jumps are co-ordinated with a live symphony concert alongside the Hahnenkamm racecourse. When musicians and skiers alike survive the night without burning to a crisp, it means a very good new year for all.

4. Central Park Midnight Run, New York, New York

While the crowds in Times Square claim credit for Manhattan's biggest party, several thousand runners gather in Central Park for the annual Midnight Run. The starting gun is a fireworks display, and the four-mile route includes a non-alcoholic champagne "water" station and passes landmarks such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Strawberry Fields and Bethesda Fountain. While costumes are encouraged (there's even a costume contest), inevitably a contingent chooses to greet 2011 in nothing but their birthday suits -- just like Baby New Year.

3. Extreme fireworks, Reykjavik, Iceland

Sub-arctic Icelanders know how to party, with nights that last all summer long and winter days where the sun barely shines, they take their troubles to the streets. On New Year's they down a round or several of Brennevín, a local schnapps nicknamed "The Black Death." With fewer restrictions on pyrotechnics than almost anywhere else, these descendents of Vikings head to the streets armed with their own fireworks, meeting around a large bonfire. As thousands detonate their personal artillery barrage, it becomes one of the most chaotic and charismatic New Year's parties on earth.

2. Children's New Year's, Rome, Italy

Roman parents have figured out the key to managing their New Year's Day hangovers: The city holds a street party for children in the Piazza Del Popolo – Capodanno dei Bambini. While grown-ups recover from the previous evening's carousing, kids are entertained with cotton candy, clowns, face painting, carnival games and a massive balloon release to let go of the old year and welcome the new.

Strangest New Years Eve Celebrations

misterbisson, flickr

1. Gambling on the Gävle Goat, Gävle, Sweden

An enormous Swedish yule goat is constructed each year in the small town of Gävle, about 100 miles north of Stockholm. The Gävlebocken is made from three tons of straw, and the 40-foot-high goat is frequently the victim of skullduggery and arson -- it has been burned down roughly every other year. Locals take bets on whether or not the goat will make it to New Year's Eve, and if not, on what day will it burn, even what hour. While goat hijinks continue annually, Gävle's bookmakers celebrate raucously in local pubs whether the goat gets roasted or not.

New Year's Traditions
Resolution making is the main U.S. tradition for ringing in the New Year. But that's nothing compared to these international traditions.

In Japan, it is traditional to listen to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at New Year's. While the first three movements are considered irrelevant and dull, hearing the Ode to Joy is considered auspicious, with the opening lines "O Freude" sounding like the Japanese phrase "get out of the bathtub."

Throughout Latin America, the color of underwear donned on New Year's symbolizes a wish and ambitions for the coming year (red for love, gold for fortune). In countries with Spanish heritage, revelers will also try to swallow a grape with each chime of the clock at midnight -- and make a wish with each one.

In Israel, at the Jewish New Year, loaves of challah bread are baked into circles to symbolize the cycle of the seasons and apples are dipped in honey to wish everyone a sweet year to come.

In China, during the Lunar New Year, people burn "hell money" (that is fake paper money) to send to the spirit world as a way of requesting favors on earth in the coming year. They make offerings of oranges to shrines of their ancestors since oranges, round and gold-colored, symbolize coins.

In Italy, any broken or chipped dishes are tossed out the window on New Year's to rid the family house of an old and damaged year and make way for a new year to come.

New Year's isn't the only time to celebrate! Check out our list of the World's Strangest Festivals.

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