NY 2020 | Travel

The top five places to celebrate New Year 2020

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Hogmanay in Edinburgh   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Wanderlust: Here is our list of five places with some of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations...

Watching the ball drop at Times Square is passé. So what’s cool? A combination of wacky traditions and crazy parties, unlike the usual ones you are probably thinking of. Here is our list of five places with some of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations...

Edinburgh, Scotland

At midnight, 19 pyro-technicians take their positions. Three... two... one... and they get to work, shooting fireworks 300 metres into the Edinburgh sky. “There is a nine-kilometre-long wire connecting up to 136 modules, delivering 3.5 tonnes of fireworks,” says Kate Bouchier-Hayes, senior publicist, The Corner Shop PR, a UK-based agency dedicated primarily to the arts.

That is not all. There are more than 4,200 fireworks containing over 16,500 shots and hundreds of thousands of stars in a gamut of colours. “Nearly 13 tonnes of equipment in four lorries and five vans will be used,” she adds. This is just a sneak peek of what is expected at the Hogmanay festival this year.

Spread over three days, the event takes places at various venues in the city, including a massive street party that turns the venues into a showcase for street performers from around the globe. It also has four stages showcasing a mix of international and local artistes — like the popular ceilidh (a social gathering where people dance to traditional folk music) — all under the watchful eyes of the imposing Edinburgh castle that is seated grandly on a hill. This year, the fireworks at midnight have been specially choreographed to go with DJ Mark Ronson’s (the headliner) new soundtrack.

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Hogmanay in Edinburgh   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

An evening earlier, on December 30, people convene on the streets for the torchlight procession. It makes for great photographs. “Its origins reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings, with wild parties in late December,” says Kate.

On New Year’s Day, an intrepid lot takes the party to the Firth of Forth (an estuary). Dressed in mostly outrageous outfits, they march through the streets led by bagpipers and drummers, before plunging into the freezing waters. That is Loony Dook for you. “The tradition was conceived in a pub during the Christmas of 1986 by a group of locals, as a novel way to cure their inevitable Hogmanay hangovers,” explains Kate.

A bucket list favourite, last year, Hogmanay saw 1.60 lakh participants from different parts of the globe. And if you are wondering, ‘what of the mess on the streets after all the intense revelry?’, Kate has an answer. “Once 2020 has arrived, a team of over 30 people from Titanium Fireworks and Historic Environment Scotland will work through the night to clear in eight hours what took five days to set up.”

Rio, Brazil

Few things in life offer a worthy equivalent to spending La réveillon (how Brazilians refer to New Year’s Eve) at dusk on Copacabana beach. Over two million people turned up to party here last year, says Hari Ganapathy, co-founder, PickYourTrail. “One of the traditions followed here is dressing up in a white outfit on the day,” he adds.

A samba dancer in Rio

A samba dancer in Rio   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

It was popularised by Afro-Brazilian religious groups, who offer white flowers and send candles into the ocean as a spiritual offering to the goddess of the sea, Yemanjá. “Also, when the clock strikes midnight, be at the sea to jump seven waves. The locals believe it brings good luck, and you make a wish for every wave you jump,” he adds. If you stick around for a bit longer, Rio offers a great many trails for the hiker in you to explore. “You can also head towards Ilha Grande,” says Ashish Dhruva, vice president, Cleartrip. “It is a largely undeveloped island with beautiful beaches and hillsides concealed in lush tropical forests,” he adds. “Rio is also the place to go to for a gastronomic experience,” Ganapathy says. The pão de queijo is an example. Made of tapioca, it is something even those following a gluten-free lifestyle can binge on. “They are little balls of heaven,” says Dhruva, adding that for the meat lovers, the local churrascaria (barbecue restaurant) is a must-visit. With Brazil proposing a visa-free regime for Indians, it is time to get packing.

Samoa

Ah! The joy of being the first to do something. Imagine having bragging rights for the whole year just because you got to celebrate New Year before your friends and family back home in India, or New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Given its geographical location in the South Pacific, the independent state of Samoa, is one of the first in the world to usher in the New Year.

Samoa

Samoa   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

Add to that parties, a firework show that debuts this year, the pristine settings... and you have enough to make Instagrammers jealous. Even though December is the monsoon season, travellers do not mind the rain on their parade. The temperature is a comfortable 29 degrees Celsius. “The peak season is normally May to October, but it has changed recently due to a high influx of visitors,” says Iulai Lesa of Samoa Travel. “In 2017/18 alone, we welcomed 1.72 lakh visitors, whereas the population of Samoa is 1.96 lakh,” he notes.

If you are feeling adventurous, the other cool thing to do is hop on a flight to American Samoa, 45 minutes away. “Even though they are nearby, Samoa is 24 hours ahead of American Samoa,” says Iulai. That way, you get to celebrate the New Year twice.

Berlin, Germany

The German capital is easily one of the coolest places to be at midnight on New Year’s Eve, or Silvester as the Germans call it (as December 31 is observed as Saint Sylvester’s Day). The highlight is the ‘party mile’, where over a million dancing, partying people — extending between two Prussian-era monuments in the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column — let their hair down and indulge in fun, frolic and booze. “The most popular (club) is the Berghain, but there is an abundance of other good clubs in the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Mitte,” says Peter Hermann, an architect who resides in Berlin, adding, “Berlin is probably among the top three centres for sub-culture, party and gay life in the West.”

Fireworks over Berliner Dom (Berlin cathedral), Germany

Fireworks over Berliner Dom (Berlin cathedral), Germany   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When it comes to Silvester tradition, the Germans have a strange one — watching an English comedy sketch from the 1960s (titled Dinner for One). “For some weird reason, it has become a cult thing to watch on TV on Silvester. It is also televised in many bars,” says Hermann. But before the corks come off the bottles, try a bit of raclette, ragout fin and Swiss fondue, keeping in line with the tradition. Hermann also recommends a stroll up and down the shopping avenues of Kurfürstendamm, Tauenziehen and Friedrichstraße, sneaking into stores for street food and hot wine. Germany is also one of the few European Union nations which permits citizens to light firecrackers. And Germans have been known to indulge (over €130 million was spent on fireworks last year by private individuals). “Germans are crazy for it. The whole day you can hear them, but especially at midnight, the city is literally drowned in bang-bang and smoke. You either love it or hate it. There is no in-between,” Hermann adds.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Icelanders take their bonfire parties, a tradition that has been on since 1791, very seriously. On New Year’s Eve, Reykjavik witnesses at least 10 such events, where locals and travellers can huddle around a crackling fire to enjoy a drink or two, and watch around 500 tonnes of firecrackers light up the night sky. “Iceland has a ban on fireworks except for this one time of the year.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It is allowed from December 28 to January 6,” says Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, manager, Visit Iceland & Creative Industries. People also gather around the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church or go up to Perlan (a futuristic-looking museum atop the Öskjuhlíð hill) to partake in the festivities. Temperature dipping down to -10 degrees Celsius is hardly a deterrent. In case it is, there are bus tours and sea cruises that arm revellers with Champagne, and take them on bonfire excursions across the capital. The bars open right after midnight, and the party continues. Sigríður says that over the years, there has been an increase in the number of passenger airplanes landing on December 31. “From 16 in 2014, it went up to around 56 in 2018,” she adds. Other than the Viking-inspired celebrations, there is always the lure of the awe-inspiring northern lights that traipse across the black sky this time of the year.

(with additional reporting by Pradeep Kumar)

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:40:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/the-top-five-places-to-celebrate-new-year-2020/article30400968.ece

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