Taking you on a cultural adventure through some of the fascinating and diverse ways that people celebrate New Year around the world.
Edinburgh – First-foot into New Year
As most of the UK winds down after Christmas, celebrations are just getting started in Scotland. New Year, or Hogmanay, brings with it street festivals, public entertainment, spectacular fire displays – and possibly a Scotch whisky to keep the fire in your belly burning. For the biggest and most renowned celebrations, head to Edinburgh, where holiday traditions that go back hundreds of years meld with today’s regional festive wonders.
After midnight, neighbours visit each other bearing traditional gifts such as shortbread: the first person to enter a household was named ‘first foot,’ bringing luck for the rest of the year. The luckiest guest was reportedly a handsome man, bringing coal as a gift.
Singing, dancing and making merry is a longstanding yearly passage for Scots. Attending a Ceilidh is ideal for anyone visiting – with traditional folk music and dancing, as is joining hands in solidarity and chanting the ode of Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns’ version of the traditional Scottish poem.
You could also experience the Saining of the House, a very old rural ritual that involves blessing the house with water from a local stream, and the woman of the house wafting around with a smouldering juniper branch, the aftermath of which was likely to include choking and coughing uncontrollably.
What’s going on in Edinburgh this year?
Unfortunately, this year’s Hogmanay festival has been cancelled, however, you can still experience the festivities online with this three-part special from 5pm between 28-31 December.
Thinking of hitting up Hogmanay for 2022? If so, we suggest Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel.
Reykjavik – Bonfires, wild parties and northern lights
Iceland’s vibrant, volcanic capital is bound to put on a unique show for New Years’ Eve. Welcoming visitors with open arms, the city is shrouded in a festive, frosty cloak of magic and the surrounding Golden Circle is resplendent under a blanket of snow. This is the time to catch Iceland, the land of fire and ice, at its finest. Reykjavik pulls out all the stops, beginning the year with a bang and sending riots of colour exploding through the skies across the city. Remember, those long dark nights provide the perfect opportunity to party.
Icelanders approach New Year festivities with a loving dedication difficult to find elsewhere. Locals watch Áramótaskaupið (Translation: The New Year’s comedy), a national satire showing no mercy in making fun of the year’s events, politicians, activists and business people.
The norm is to gather with friends and family and head in to see the bonfires and some of the most impressive firework displays held in each of the city’s quarters. Meeting in the city’s small downtown area means party time; colder weather means hot nightlife.
What’s going on in Reykjavik this year?
Locals have developed a prodigious reputation for having a good time, so you won’t need to worry too much about planning your parties in Reykjavik. Get a feel for your evening by keeping an eye on the Reykjavik Grapevine, a great place to find out about music venues, eateries and hotspots frequented by Icelanders.
Stay at the superb Reykavik Loft hostel complete with eco-certification.
If close to Reykjavik, head to Almannagjá, Thingvellir national park, a small canyon with huge cliffs with nothing to block out the elusive and spectacular Northern Lights, for a NYE to remember.
Paris – fun, foie gras and raised glasses
Charge your glasses and count the New Year down in Paris, here, celebrating in style is a minimum requirement. From warehouse parties to sophisticated shindigs, you can shell out a little or a lot and still fully appreciate the illuminations in France’s romantic city of light.
New Year’s Eve in France is known as la Saint-Sylvestre, in honour of 4th Century Pope Sylvester I, who was buried on 31st December 335. However, that is where any religious connotations end and most French people see the day as an opportunity for some good food, fine wine and a cheery celebration with family and friends.
Seeing out the New Year in Paris is a real joy – the traditional Parisian food of choice is oysters and foie gras, but also get your fill of papillotes, popping chocolate, a common treat at New Year. Raised glasses should be filled with wonderfully fizzy Champagne or at the very least a sparkling wine of choice, and give whoever you’re standing next to at midnight a light kiss on each cheek, or bisous, to see in the New Year.
What’s going on in Paris this year?
Want to sample some traditional French cuisine but without the hefty price-tag? Head to Le Fleuve Rouge for French eats at a fraction of the price.
While the usual fireworks display at the Champs-Élysées have been cancelled this year, you can check out some alternative ways to spend your New Years Eve in Paris here
Crash at our centrally located, green hostel, Paris – Yves Robert.
Toyko – forget 2021 at a Bonenkai party
New Year (正月, shōgatsu) in Japan, is considered one of the most important holidays of the year and is full of traditions to help you dust off the old and enter the new year refreshed and renewed.
Be sure to indulge in a bowl of soba noodles or Toshikoshi soba (Translation: year-crossing noodles) before the clock strikes midnight to aid in letting go of past and making room for the new.
Cleaning is a big part of New Year’s traditions with the belief that the god Toshigami-sama (年神様) will bring great fortune to a clean house on New Year’s Day.
The Bonenkai Party, translated as forget the year party sees friends and coworkers coming together to celebrate the achievements of the past year by being merry and eating delicious food.
Watch Kohaku Utagassen (紅白歌合戦) this music tv show brings in the New Year from 7:30 pm until the very end of the New Year’s Eve.
Hatsumode is the tradition of visiting a shrine or temple for the first time in the New Year. We recommended checking out Meiji Shrine, where the large temple bells are rung at midnight.
What’s going on in Toyko?
Count down the new year at the south side of the main deck of Tokyo Tower or take to the mountains to witness the sun’s first stunning appearance as a New Year dawns.
Visit Mount Takao, a convenient 50km away from Tokyo by train and cable car into the foothills. You’ll share the experience and the view with loads of locals and visitors, made more precious by a musical accompaniment of conch shells played at the nearby temple.
Stay at Tokyo – HI Tokyo Central YH
Madrid – Nochevieja
Nochevieja (Translation: Old Night) is New Year’s Eve in Spanish and is celebrated with a number of traditions and superstitions that are believed to bring luck and ensure the new year will be a good one.
Madrid’s main square Puerta del Sol is where many locals gather and wait for the Real Casa de Correos clock to strike midnight.
Having 12 grapes at hand before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is a must anywhere in Spain! Supermarkets will even sell little boxes containing 12 grapes just for the occasion. The tradition requires that you eat each grape at every stroke of the clock as it strikes midnight. Each grape is meant to bring good luck and prosperity for each month of the upcoming year.
If you’re looking for love in 2022 make sure you wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve, however, some believe that this will only work if you receive the underwear as a gift.
What’s going on in Madrid this year
Bring your grapes with you and experience the beautiful lighting of the Real Casa de Correos, as well as the fireworks and confetti show that will ensure your New Years Eve in Madrid will be unforgettable.
Stay at the centrally located boutique Hat Hostel