New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the previous year and focus on the year to come. Most of us observe traditions, celebrations, resolutions or perhaps even superstitions to ring in the New Year and bid farewell to the year that has passed.
Being on the East Coast of the U.S., I always watch for the big ball in Time Square, and realize that the Mid and West Coast ring in the new year a few hours after us, but it got me thinking about the rest of the world? When is it midnight and how do they celebrate? I discovered that no matter what part of the world we are from, we all have similar customs of gathering together with family and friends and celebrating the new year.
So when is it 12 o’clock midnight in some of the places on my bucket list?
First to celebrate New Years is Christmas Island. Auckland and Wellington New Zealand hit 12 o’clock midnight at 6 am EST followed by several regions of Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra,) at 8 a.m. EST. The Aussies and Kiwis celebrate similar to most cultures filled with parties and dazzling fireworks. If you are awake or can catch it later in the day, watch the fireworks around the Sydney Harbor. Often regarded as the best in the world, the fireworks are set off over the bridge and synchronized with popular music. Here’s an interesting fact, Gisborne in New Zealand is west of the International Date Line, so they are the first major city to celebrate New Years.
Next stop: Japan. Japan’s New Year is at 10 am EST in Tokyo, Seoul and Pyongyang. Known as Omisoka, their custom includes ringing a bell 108 times. Why 108? It is to represent repentance for each of the moral desires that have been identified by the Buddhist faith. By 11 a.m. EST Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore celebrate the New Year.
Moving onto India, they celebrate at 1:30 pm EST. Sounds strange, but yes their time zone falls on the half hour. Although it is not India’s official New Year, many regions throughout the country still celebrate with festivals.
Eight hours before midnight (3 p.m. EST) it’s 12 o’clock in most of Russia. Unlike most cultures, people in Russia spend the last few minutes of the New Year in silence. They use this time to write down wishes and burn them. Hard core believers takes the ashes and put them into their champagne glass and drink up at the stroke of midnight.
At 6 p.m. while we are preparing for our dinners and parties, much of Europe is celebrating New Year’s including Italy, Germany and France. In Denmark their meal includes pork, cod and kale, as well as a ring cake called Kransekage. Many break dishes at the stroke of midnight for luck. Customs inSpain including celebrate with a feast, wearing red underwear and eat 12 grapes while making a wish for each one. The parties and pubs keep going into the wee hours of the morning, and for breakfast churros, pastries and hot chocolate. (We had churros dunked in hot chocolate sauce while in Barcelona – it’s delicious!) In France New Year’s Eve is called la Saint-Sylvester and it is celebrated with a feast including foie gras, oysters and champagne. The French exchange cards and gifts, and also kiss under the mistletoe. In Austria, the main television station broadcasts the Pummerin, which is the bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Afterwards they play Johann Strauss’s The Blue Danube and people dance in the streets.
At 7 p.m. EST, England, Ireland, Portugal andMorocco are at 12 o’clock. In many English pubs you will find people holding hands and singing Auld Lang Syne. There is also an amazing fireworks display above the London Eye accompanied with music. On New Year’s day the celebration continues with a huge parade.
Three hours before midnight (9 p.m. EST) Brazilcomes alive. Traditional gatherings with food and drink and lots of fireworks. It is said that in Rio at the Copacabana Beach you will see one of the most spectacular firework displays in the world. Argentina celebrates the New Year at 10 p.m. EST.
Who is last? Well it’s not midnight in Hawaii until 5 a.m. on January 1st and the very last place is American Samoa and the Midways Islands at 6 a.m. EST on January 1st.