As each year comes to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on the year that was and looking forward to the year to come. We use celebrations, superstitions, resolutions and traditions to properly ring in the New Year and bid farewell to the old one. Here in the US our focus is usually on the big ball that drops in Times Square so it’s very easy to overlook celebrations and countdowns from around the globe. Often we forget that the new year has already started for many others so we’re going to use today’s blog to see just who celebrates first and how far in advance of us they really are!
The first people to celebrate the New Year are … the people of Samoa & Tokelau in the South Pacific. The parties start a full 19 hours before us on the Eastern coast of the United States as the cities of Kiritimati (Christmas Island), Apia and Fakaofo come to life. An hour later the party comes to other Pacific islands and Western territories such as New Zealand. In fact, the Kiwi’s celebrate like most cultures around the world as social gatherings and dazzling fireworks light the sky. The most impressive is at Sky Tower in Auckland City which stands at 1,076 feet tall, which is taller than the Eiffel Tower and the Chrysler Building.
By 7am Eastern Time it’s time for some small regions of Russia to start celebrating and by 8am it’s the turn of some of the Australian regions like Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra to get in on the act. We then leap forward to just 14 hours before midnight Eastern time to Japan where New Year’s Eve, or Omisoka, has been celebrated for centuries.
In India, it’s actually 10.5 hours before EST that the celebrations for “Diwali” begin. Diwali is based on the Hindu calendar and although the Indian New Year won’t officially be celebrated on January 1st, many displays and celebrations are still held in many of the major urban areas throughout the country.
9 hours before midnight EST, Moscow gets in on the act as the Kremlin counts down the final seconds of the year. Many Russians actually send those moments in silence though, rather than cheering and making noise. It’s during this quiet time that they take the time to make wishes for the new year and many actually take the time to write them out. In a rather odd tradition some of them then burn their written wishes, placing the ashes in a glass of champagne, and then drinking this rather weird concoction to hopefully ensure the wish will come true!
Jumping forward to 6 hours before midnight EST, it’s the turn of most Europeans to embrace the new year. In Spain, its the tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight, while many Danes enjoy the ritual of breaking dishes! For fireworks, then perhaps Paris has the best and most phenomenal fireworks in the whole of Europe until London gets into the act one hour later at 5 hours until midnight EST.
Also, 5 hours ahead of Eastern USA are some Western African countries and also Portugal. At 3 hours before midnight EST it’s the turn of our amigos in South America to heat things up. Unlike many Americans the folks in Brazil will be shorts, tank tops and swimwear as New Year’s Eve in the Southern Hemisphere occurs during the Summer and that allows for many festivities to take place on the beach.
Argentina joins in an hour later before some regions of Canada start to celebrate an hour after that and just one hour before we do! Then, finally, it becomes our turn as the final seconds of 2011 slip away and the Times Square Ball begins its descent. Many folks turn out in New York for this tradition and many others on the Eastern side of the United States gather around their TV sets, grab fistfuls of things that make a noise and then rush to secure a New Year kiss. When the ball finally reaches the bottom of its 60 foot pole, it’s the New Year! Time to party.
New Year isn’t done there though as it takes another four hours for New Year to cross over the USA and to Alaska before it finally reaches its journey’s end 2 hours after that (6am EST) at American Samoa and the Midway Islands. As you can see, New Year has quite a way to travel!
From all of us at Florida Leisure / Florida Leisure Vacation Homes and Florida Leisure Blog, we have enjoyed bringing you our own perspectives on Orlando and the Central Florida area this year and we wish you a very Happy and prosperous New Year in 2012. We do hope we’ll get to see many of you as you make a return visit to our Sunshine State and the “Happiest Place on Earth!”
Happy New Year!