If you happen to be vacationing on the Pacific Island of Kiribati for New Year’s Eve this year, you’ll be one of the first in the world to welcome 2015, as the small island rests right at the tip of world’s first time zone. On the other hand, if you happen to be in Honolulu, you’ll be among the last to say aloha to 2015. No matter where you are when the clock strikes midnight, chances are that you, like nearly everyone else in the world, will be doing something to mark the birth of a brand new year.
December 31 hasn’t always been the last day of the year: people celebrated the New Year before we even used the Gregorian calendar, before there was any such thing as December at all. In ancient Babylon, the first new moon after the vernal equinox — when the day is exactly as long as the night — marked the beginning of the new year. Ancient Egyptians marked the occasion after the flooding of the Nile, which brought rebirth to the crops. Chinese New Year has always begun at the second new moon after the winter solstice. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar introduced a calendar that more closely resembles the 12-month calendar we use today that January 1 became the official beginning of the year. (January is named after Janus, the Roman god of transitions and beginnings.)
Today, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are two of the biggest celebration days in the world. Every culture sweeps out the old and welcomes in the new with its own particular customs, with traditions ranging from wearing all white (Brazil) to warding off evil spirits by banging pots and pans as loudly as possible (New Zealand).
However, one tradition that’s nearly universal is trying to have as much fun as possible in the final hours of the year, so to help you get in the festive spirit, we’ve compiled a list of the world’s best New Year’s parties, from the decadent to the intimate and cozy.
Whether you celebrate at the top of the Sydney Opera House or from the comfort of your own couch, have a truly happy New Year!
Australia: Opera Kitchen, Sydney
Watch the iconic New Year’s fireworks over the Sydney Harbor in style from a 12-person cabana with your own private butler serving a three-course meal tailored to your specifications. The decadence comes with one caveat: it’ll set you back $1,100 Australian, or about $900 U.S.
Celebrate at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Two million visitors per year gather on Rio’s sandy white beaches to watch hundreds of fireworks light up the night sky over the ocean. Don’t forget to wear white — the customary color for the holiday — as you dance in the sand to the live music that begins around 8 p.m.