Unique New Years Celebrations Around the World

If watching the ball drop in Times Square is how you spend your New Years Eve every year, you’re not alone! But there are so many other traditions around the world to experience. Here are just a few of the most fun and unusual!

vienna, austria

Vienna, Austria
For cosmopolitan sophistication, you can’t do much better than being in Vienna for the New Year celebrations. A Grand Ball is held every year for Europe’s glitterati at the Imperial Hofburg Palace, but if you don’t get that invitation there’s still a lot to do in the city. There’s a traditional “New Year’s Path” around the city center (Silvesterpfad) and the various charming Christmas markets are another great activity to keep you occupied. In the morning, join locals outside at the Rathaus (City Hall) to hear a free concert from the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic, projected onto a giant screen.

mount takao, japan

Mount Takao, Japan
If you’re craving contemplation instead of crowds and revelry for New Years, an annual tradition is to hike Mt. Takao (just an hour outside of Tokyo by train) and time your summit to sunrise. Local Buddhist priests celebrate the new year with chanting designed to “welcome the light” of the coming year. Dine on the traditional Japanese New Years meal of soba noodles and “break” with the misfortunes of the past year with every bite.

aukland, new zealand

Auckland, New Zealand
If you’re the sort who likes to be first at everything, you’ll probably want to head to a time zone where the New Year hits early. A family tradition in the city is to head up Mount Eden or One Tree Hill to watch the Sky Tower fireworks. Music festival people have a great choice as well – the Wondergarden festival draws the best of Kiwi musical acts and is a rather affordable ticket. It rotates to a different city park every year. Keep in mind that the new year actually hits New Zealand in the middle of their summer – so the main requirement for celebrations is that they be outdoors – to take advantage of the warm weather!


If you find yourself in Denmark for New Years and you notice piles of broken cups and plates on people’s doorsteps, take heart. There is a reason. Throughout the year, the Danes collect their broken glass and dinnerware. Then on New Year’s Eve people deliver the broken pieces to various friends’ doorsteps. It’s said that people with the most broken pieces on January 1 will have the best start to the year, with luck and good fortune in spades.

tornio and haparanda

Tornio, Finland and Haparanda, Sweden
So maybe you’re the kind of party person that likes to go big or go home. Instead of celebrating once, you’d like to celebrate New Years twice in two different countries! Sounds like a daunting task? Not if you know where to look! Tornio and Haparanda are in two different time zones and separated by a pedestrian bridge. You can join the Finns in Tornio for countdown number one, and then hoof it over the bridge to party with the Swedes for countdown number two, fireworks and all!

ryekjavik, iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland
There’s so much to explore in Reykjavik, but the city is simply spectacular for New Years. Of course you can expect fireworks, but another local tradition is to build large bonfires all over the city (which is a clever way of warming people up on the streets at the coldest time of the year). Huddle up with some locals and try to join in the sing-alongs, or get yourself to one of Reykjavik’s many bars (that stay open until 5:00 am for the holiday)!

cartagena, colombia

Sure you can join in some traditional festivities like open air concerts and fireworks shows in Cartagena or Medellin. Wherever you go in Colombia, know that this country takes New Years traditions to a completely different level. To insure wealth and prosperity in the coming year, make sure you’re wearing your yellow undies when the clock strikes midnight. If you’re looking for double prosperity, wear them inside out!

Happy holidays and see you in 2018!

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