All around the world, people welcome in the new year with one of the oldest holidays of all. New Year’s Eve is commonly a time to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. No matter where you are in the world, it’s generally a time where people live together in harmony and focus on family and friends. People in different parts of the world use different calendars. China and Israel keep a lunar calendar while others celebrate in the spring when new crops begin to grow or in the autumn when the crops are harvested.
In Rio de Janeiro, December 31st isn’t just New Year’s Eve; it is one of the biggest events of the year. More than 2 million people dress in white and flock to Copacabana beach to watch fireworks and offer flowers and floating candles to the Goddess of the Ocean. The Fiesta de Iemanjá is a celebration that includes an eclectic mix of fireworks, Samba and bands celebrating African, Christian and indigenous traditions lasting long into the night.
A symbol of renewal, New Year’s Day is the most important holiday in Japan. Throughout December, many Bonenkai or “forget the year parties” are held to say farewell to the problems and concerns from the past year and to prepare for a new beginning. All misunderstandings and hard feelings are pardoned and houses are scrubbed. At midnight on December 31st, the Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in order to dismiss 108 different types of human weaknesses. New Year’s Day itself is a day of joy in which no work is to be done. The children receive small gifts with money inside known as ‘otoshidamas‘.
Australia is one of the first countries to ring in the New Year and has the largest ‘first’ celebration. The crowds begin to gather early in the evening around Sydney harbor to watch the hourly aerial flyovers and the Harbor of Light Parade which includes 55 vessels that make their way around Sydney Harbor. When the clock strikes twelve, the skies above Sydney burst open with a barrage of different colors and shapes as fireworks fire from six barges on Sydney Harbor, seven skyscraper rooftops and across the arch of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.