10 Unique Places to Celebrate New Year’s Eve
December 12, 2016
Consider enjoying one of these unique celebrations around the world on the last night of the year
In honor of being the self-proclaimed “Opposum Capital of the World,” Brasstown, North Carolina has a unique tradition called the “Possum Drop,” in which a live possum is carefully lowered in a plexiglass cage. The festivities begin at 9:30 p.m. with a bluegrass pre-show at Clay’s Corner convenience store, and continue with the arrival of the guest of honor (the opossum), more bluegrass music, a Miss Possum Contest, and a tribute to veterans. At midnight, fireworks are set off and the opossum is released.
In Edinburgh, Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of year's end, lasts for three days and involves a music festival with live bands, DJs, and fireworks. The Loony Dook is a popular event on New Year’s Day, where people dress up in fancy garb (not mandatory, but added fun) and dive into the frigid waters of Firth of Forth, just north of Edinburgh. Usually people stop somewhere for a quick bite and to warm up on the way back.
Although the Chinese New Year doesn't start until late January this year, visitors can spend the last night in December in front of Harbin's Saint Sophia Cathedral for the countdown to midnight. Harbin has an Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival that begins officially Jan. 5, but the parks open on Dec. 24 so you can see the incredible ice architectural displays lit up in bright LED lights that give this winter creation a surreal presence.
Watch your head if you’re in Naples, or other cities in Italy, from Rome south, on New Year’s Eve. Along with the huge outdoor music events and fireworks displays to celebrate the New Year, some parts of Naples still celebrate the old tradition of throwing out old furniture and other household items from their windows to make room and prepare for the new year.
Oh, and while you’re there, don’t forget to be a basic tourist and eat pizza while in Italy.
Peel, Isle of Man
Nothing will wake you up faster than a few quick dips in seawater that's about 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit) — four dips to be exact. Adrenaline junkies will get a kick out of this, but all are welcome to join. Between each dip in the freezing water, a shot of dark rum is taken to combat the piercing temperature. The tradition, which began in Peel in 1983, raises money for three charities: Peel Lifeboat, Multiple Sclerosis, and a third one that varies from year to year. At least you’ll be braving the cold water New Year’s Day for a good cause.
Port Clinton, Ohio
Forget the Waterford crystal ball in Times Square. If you’re interested in watching a 600-pound fiberglass fish descend at midnight, Walleye Madness in Port Clinton is the unique New Year's Eve event you’re looking for. This 20-foot fish, named Wylie the Walleye, has been a New Year’s tradition in this town since 1996. Fireworks add to this festive celebration. While in the seafood spirit, stop in at the Jolly Roger Seafood House for a walleye sandwich and onion rings.
Ecuador has a long-standing tradition of burning “los años viejos,” the old years, on New Year’s Eve. People make scarecrow-like effigies of people they dislike or just famous folk, sometimes tacking lists of sins on their bodies, then light them on fire when midnight strikes. A lot of beer is consumed on the occasion, and men dress in drag to beg for brew money. Street dances with plenty of music go on all night.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, when people burned things they no longer needed, bonfires have been a large part of Icelandic culture, especially on Dec. 31. These bonfires, called brenna, are set up in each district of Reykjavik and are a must if you're in Iceland for the occasion. New Year's Eve can also be a good night to see the Aurora Borealis, if the weather cooperates; as a fallback, plan on celebrating with the rest of the town drinking craft beer.
Home to the world's largest bonfire on New Year's Eve, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Scheveningen is a bright place to celebrate the new year. The community works together starting on Dec. 27 to create this enormous conflagration out of wooden pallets, with musical performances and fireworks adding to this amazing spectacle. As of 2014, the bonfire has been officially listed as part of the Dutch cultural heritage.
If you want to celebrate the new year twice, head to Macedonia. The country celebrates New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31 with the rest of the Western world, but then, on January 14, comes the holiday dubbed Old New Year. Really just another reason to party and spend time with family, the day is spent dancing to traditional folk music, watching fireworks, and lighting bonfires. If you’re in no rush to go home once 2017 begins, stick around for a couple of weeks and celebrate twice — it’s a two-for-one special!