New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. December 31 may be the most celebrated date around the world, even in countries with alternative calendars. Although it often involves family, the date usually holds the record for the largest number of simultaneous parties celebrated in the entire year.
The act of ringing in another year implies new beginnings. A clean slate. We think this merits considering fresh celebration alternatives that can become future traditions, or at the very least make an unforgettable night.
A Little New Year’s Eve History
First off, let’s take a look back at the science and history behind New Year’s Eve. Humanity has marked the passage of time since the earliest civilizations noticed the cyclical repetition of days, nights and seasons. Around four thousand years ago in Babylon, the first moon following the spring equinox was commemorated with a religious festival.
Thousands of years later, the Roman Empire established calendars based on the solar cycle instead of the lunar. The month of January was chosen as the beginning of the year in honor of the god Janus, whose two faces allowed him to see forward (the future) and back (the past) at the same time. Centuries later, the colonization and industrialization of the western world led to the adoption of standardized time and 24 time zones, one for each hour of the day. The regions within each time zone celebrate the new year simultaneously.
Today’s New Year’s traditions have become quite similar across different cultures. Banquets, a champagne toast, tests of faith, countdowns, fireworks, grapes, resolutions, hugs, kisses, the end (or rather, the beginning). However, part of the fun of New Year’s Eve celebrations is that there are no set rules on how and what they should be. You wave the previous year goodbye and ring in the new one however you please.
You still have time to plan an original and unforgettable New Year’s Eve. Here are our suggestions.
6 Celebrate New Year’s Eve Before Anyone Else
The first major New Year celebration reported each year is usually Sydney in Australia, with its mind-blowing fireworks show that lights up the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. However, based on our current time zones, the countries to first clock in a new year are actually Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati in the southern Pacific Ocean.
You can wait for the New Year at any of these sites with traditional Polynesian celebrations such as fire dances and banquets with local delicacies. Better yet, you can boast on social media that you rang in the New Year hours before any of your friends.
5 Count the Year Down More Than Once in a Night
You have the opportunity to visit multiple New Year parties wherever you are, but usually you will only have one chance to count the seconds down until the beginning of the new year. However, the way we measure time today, coupled with the arbitrary divisions of time zones, means that there are ways to attend several New Year’s celebrations in a single night.
Many bordering countries have an hour difference between them, as is the case with Spain and Portugal. You can then swallow twelve grapes in the beautiful border town of Badajoz, Spain, then drive about twenty to thirty minutes towards the Portuguese town of Elvas and make a toast for the new year again.
Sweden and Finland make the double celebration even easier thanks to the cities of Karesuando and Karesuvanto, respectively. Two kilometers separate both regions, yet they have a one-hour difference due to split time zones. An excellent option for those who enjoy time travel and freezing temperatures.
4 Roll Back the Clock on an Airplane
Spain-Portugal and Sweden-Finland allow you to enjoy two New Year’s Eve countdown parties on a relatively low budget. Now, those with enough money and energy can choose to ring in the year in two major cities of the world one after another. Several airlines offer flights after midnight on January 1 from countries such as Japan and China to cities in the United States such as Honolulu, Hawaii or Los Angeles, California that arrive in the late hours of December 31.
A more exclusive option is private jets. For years, British company PrivateFly has invited groups to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Sydney, Australia, then board a Gulfstream G550 and land in Honolulu or Los Angeles with six hours to go before the ball drops.
If a private jet feels claustrophobic, you can also choose an air cruise. Asian cruise line Crystal invites you to enjoy Crystal Skye service that flies you around the world aboard a private luxury Boeing 777. Crystal Skye has previously promoted Double New Year Celebration trips with routes through Singapore-Sydney-Honolulu and Hong Kong-Tokyo-Las Vegas. Their packages include local guides in each city, exclusive tours, gala dinners, open bar and personalized on-board service.
3 Start the New Year Fresh Inside an Ice Hotel
Since New Year’s is about endings and new beginnings, nothing is as poetic as starting the year fresh by staying in a hotel made of ice. For the past 30 years, the ICEHOTEL has been erected in in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden early each winter, to then melt away with the arrival of spring.
The ephemeral nature of ICEHOTEL, together with the winter wonders surrounding the village of Jukkasjärvi, make for a magical experience suitable for New Year’s Eve celebrations. There you can stay in a room completely composed of ice, bathe in hot springs, learn to ice sculpt, sleep on teepees in the North Pole or celebrate your fantasy white (or Frozen-themed) wedding. Instead of fireworks, you celebrate the new year with the natural majesty of the Northern Lights.
2 Race Against Time Inside an Escape Room
Can you and your friends get out before the midnight bells ring? Escape rooms have grown in popularity thanks to their shared mechanic of trapping a group of individuals within a closed space with no apparent exit. They must work together to decipher clues and solve puzzles that allow them to leave, usually in less than an hour.
The dramatic temporal factor of these “real life video games” makes them an fitting environment to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Many escape room services in large cities offer packages before, during and after New Year’s Eve. Reality Break Escapes, for example, let’s you live the escape room experience and then enjoy the countdown in whichever part of world the clock is about to strike twelve when you “regain your freedom.”
Not all escape rooms will have new year parties, but most are available for private events. You can contact the closest one in your region and organize your End-of-the-Year party with them.
1 Dress Up to Ring in the New Year
New Year’s Eve is about parties and the best celebrations usually involve costumes. Carnival and Halloween are considered the top holidays for costumed balls. However, no law bans you from having your own masquerade bash on December 31.
Now, if you prefer not to plan an event, there are many options around the world where you and your friends can disguise yourselves as your favorite characters. Better yet, you can all attend immersive New Year events. Imagine dressing in period clothes and being a person from another historical era or alternative situation for the night. London, England, for example, has countless options in this category. There you can party as a pirate of the Caribbean, prison inmate, Great Gatsby party guest, medieval royalty, or mystery masquerade ball attendee, among others.
Thus we close for now our list of original alternatives to celebrate New Year’s Eve. We’ll update the list every year to give you better options each time. The goal behind this compilation is to highlight the variety of options available for everyone to ring in the new year. In addition, of course, to all the world-famous New Year’s celebrations out there. New York, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Valparaiso, Edinburgh, Punta del Este, Venice, Madrid, Tokyo, Cancun, and Berlin, just to name a few.
We invite you to enjoy any of these, within your means. Most of all, we hope that these options inspire you to discover a new tradition or make up your own. Have a Happy New Year!