Having grown up in New York my whole life, I tend to think that the things we do here are universal. It's easy to believe that New York is the center of the universe and all the other major cities look to it for guidance. Not having any extensive traveling under my belt, I couldn't fathom that other cities could have their own things going on, or that other cities celebrate New Year's in a completely different way — maybe in a way more exciting than the one I know best.
It was only recently that I started to wonder if perhaps the entire world is not all watching the ball drop on MTV from the comfort of their living room. Perhaps people around the world are not reading the subtitled exclamations coming from ex-Disney pop-stars while they wait for the giant crystal-plated ball to slowly slide down a flagpole.
In fact, people around the world are ringing in the New Year in their own way, with their own traditions, celebrations, and festivities. After doing a bit of research, I found that New Year's Eve is indeed celebrated differently around the world. While we're all in agreement that the night is to be spent getting wild, our wild ways differ greatly. This is how people celebrate New Year's Eve in 11 international cities:
In London, people celebrate the holiday by lighting up the sky with fireworks. People gather around the River Thames and wait for the fireworks to begin out of the London Eye, as Big Ben counts down the remaining minutes of the year. The next day, there's a huge New Year's Day parade that goes throughout the city.
Rio de Janeiro
In Rio, the new year celebration is called Réveillon. People wear all white and gather around the beach — their sacred place. They bring offerings to the ocean like flowers, rice, jewelry and perfume. And then they party all night long, ocean-side.
In Berlin, New Year's Eve is like a city-wide festival. The main gathering area is filled with party tents so people can get wild together in the cold. They call this an open air party. There are DJs and musicians that perform all night. Millions of people flock to this event yearly!
In this Scottish city, New Year's is called Hogmanay and it includes a massive parade filled with torch-bearers, drummers, bagpipe players. When they reach their point of interest, Calton Hill, there's a massive party with music and booze and fireworks.
In this Spanish city, locals do something a little bit different. It's something you definitely won't see on MTV. In the last 12 seconds of the year, the people of Madrid try to swallow 12 grapes. It's a longstanding superstition that they take very seriously. If they can swallow all 12 grapes in 12 seconds, they'll have a good year ahead of them. Oh, and then they party.
People are all about celebrating and wishing for good health in Tokyo. The night of the new year, people eat buckwheat noodles — a great source of nutrition — and celebrate with other healthy dishes that local restaurants will pass around town. Then, when the clock strikes midnight, temples around the city will ring their bells, making sweet, sweet music before a night of partying ensues.
Though this might sound like a practice of the cast mates of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, the people of Denmark gather all of their unused plates and throw them against the wall and onto the floor to celebrate the new year. It's not an angry thing for them, it's a celebratory "let's break things for good luck" thing!
In Ecuador, New Year's is spent doing something that your angsty teenage heart would get really excited about. They make their own scarecrows (that typically resemble the villains in their lives) and then light them on fire. Then they all get together and throw old photographs into the fire from the last year for good fortune in the future. The experience is celebratory and cleansing.
In Estonia (my new dream country), people eat seven meals to celebrate the New Year. The idea is that by over-indulging, you're wishing yourself a year of abundance. Now this is a celebration I can get behind.
In this Peruvian village, people get together in the town square and beat the crap out of each other. Seriously, people fist fight in the streets to clear up their differences so that they can go into the New Year with a clean slate. It's called the Takanakuy festival and it's actually considered a positive event!
Another delicious celebration, the people of Portugal drink champagne and eat 12 raisins, one for each month. They take a sip and make a wish between each bite and take it very seriously. Then they dance the night away and eat everything sweet.
No matter where you're celebrating the New Year this year, maybe this list will inspire you to adopt a few practices of your own! And, of course, party hard, the way we all internationally do.