This time of year is special for everyone. Not only is it a time to share with family, loved ones and friends, it’s also a time to create new memories and new hopes for the coming year. For those who can’t tame their wanderlust, there are places to go this time of year that will surely satisfy. While many of us associate the late-year holidays with colder climates, complete with scenes of snow and warm fires, there’s a whole other half of the world — on the opposite side where it’s warm, sunny and people wear shirt sleeves and shorts. Crossing the equator can make for very special adventures this time of year along with making powerful memories. For those of you who are looking to get away and celebrate with your global neighbors, there is plenty to consider — from the traditional to the not-so-traditional and even the, "I didn't really think of that."
Whatever your choice, make it memorable, stress-free and a travel adventure for the ages, even if you only travel from house to house.
If beaches, larger-than-life nativity scenes, and natural adventures are your thing, consider Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s top destination offers all the holiday familiarity but adds beaches and unique surroundings, painted with the color of local traditions. World famous beaches like Copacabana provide the backdrop for the gathering of two million New Year's Eve revelers at the height of the Brazilian summer. Whether it's to watch fireworks, or party goers ritualistically cleansing their souls in the ocean, or just to take in a one-of-a-kind celebration that only a country like Brazil can pull off. This destination offers the perfect celebratory energy for people who don't mind crowds. Once you're all partied out, you can enjoy a much needed tonic consisting of a variety of post-party breakfasts to help you get your sightseeing plans underway for the rest of your stay.
Heading Down Under — Sydney, Australia not only glows with the lights of the season, but music, markets and merry celebrations highlight the summer months in Australia’s largest city. The famous Sydney Harbour Bridge is the focal point for the city's colossal fireworks display. The entire New Year's Eve celebration has its own Twitter hashtag #sydney and an informative. For those looking to the ends of the Earth — well, almost — to have a big city party combined with great weather.
The equatorial tropics from the Pacific Islands to the Caribbean Sea offer a mix of holiday cheer, lights and celebrations to go with that forget-your-troubles scenery. The food and music alone will make you want to come back for more each year.
One of the best ways to extend the Christmas and New Year festivities is to visit one of the various destinations where the celebration of the 12 days of Christmas culminates in the Feast of the Three Kings. A tradition among many Christians, Three Kings Day is most visibly celebrated in Spain, México,throughout Latin America and many Caribbean islands. Traditionally, children receive gifts on January 6 rather than on Christmas Day, but modern times have modified traditions to accommodate the familiar gift giving in December. Many children enjoy the best of both traditions and receive gifts twice! Still, celebrants continue the decorations, music and gatherings right through the 6th of January, making the 12 days of Christmas really count. If you’re up for an extended holiday, consider celebrating el Día de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) and head for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Bold and cold
There are those who associate these holidays with colder weather, and even snow. For those who prefer to bundle up and get their warmth from their coats, sweaters, gloves and beanies northerly climates might be more appealing. The wind might bite a little in some places, but the celebrations give all the light and energy you’ll need to thaw out that Jack Frost feeling.
Back when the world was welcoming a new millennium and cities across the globe lit up their skies in celebration of the Year 2000, people got to see how creatively beautiful some familiar places were adorned in light and color. That splendor continues every year all over the world as familiar landmarks take on a new personalities just as revelers tend to drop their inhibitions and let it all go for one night.
In Rome, music serenades people along the streets and bridges framing iconic structures. Various concerts are held along the bridges and their fireworks display, usually lasting 15 minutes, can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city. Locals may have their New Year’s Eve dinner at home before venturing out, but if you’re out to find lights, color and a festive atmosphere with cooler but slightly more temperate weather, Rome could be your destination.
Speaking of bridges, the River Thames that ribbons around the city of London bustles with activity this time of year. From the London Eye to Big Ben to the Tower Bridge, there is no lack for a backdrop to revel in with locals and tourists alike as you take in a spectacular fireworks display in all its explosive brilliance.
If it’s still not cold enough, what about a great Finnish to 2017? In Finland, things get pretty quiet between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s widely known that the quiet times with family and friends is merely a social hibernation, if you will, for the big celebration to come. All that saved energy spills onto the streets and squares. Interestingly, locals are allowed to purchase fireworks between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but can only use them from 6pm New Year’s Eve until 2am.
If you wander the streets, don’t be surprised by random displays of pyrotechnics, which ramp up in frequency leading up to midnight. Of course there are public gatherings and fireworks displays for the masses to enjoy if stocking up on miniature explosives isn’t your thing.
While some people use cards and crystal balls to tell their fortunes, many Finns will tell the future with a tradition of melting miniature tin horseshoes and then dipping the liquid metal into cold water. The random shapes that result in the newly formed tin is used to “predict” a person’s future. Once the celebrations are over, you can get back to normal life and enjoy all that a winter haven has to offer, including skiing. “Hyvää uutta vuotta!”
When a square is not a square and midnight is a half-hour ahead
What New Year’s Eve would be complete without a huge crowd, a big ball and a square that’s shaped like anything but its namesake? Of course we’re talking about New York City and the big “ball drop” that happens in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The event has evolved from a gathering of bundled-up, well-imbibed partiers to a corporate sponsored celebrity filled party that is considered more family friendly but one true fact remains: The New Year does not officially arrive in the U.S. until the ball is dropped in Times Square. But, don’t tell that to those who live in the easternmost point in North America.
If you want to talk about firsts, then your focus needs to be on St. John’s, Newfoundland which has the distinction of being the first place in all of North America to ring in the New Year. Canada’s easternmost city lives life a half-hour ahead of the rest of the continent. So, when new Year’s day reaches Atlantic Standard Time (AST), it does so when it’s really 11:30 pm in most AST regions. Signal Hill, a national historic site and old fortress, was the place where Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first wireless transmission from across the Atlantic in December, 1901. The symbolism of being the first point of contact is also taken to heart by the people of Newfoundland and there’s no better place to enjoy something different than in St. John’s and its hyper-friendly citizens. Maybe it’s the need for people to keep close to each other during the cold dark days of winter. What sets Newfoundland apart is the incredible warmth and life-loving laughter that is seen in the eyes of its people. Anyone who visits Newfoundland is astounded by the overwhelming hospitality. English is definitely spoken here, but it might take some getting used to the unique words and phrases that give the language a color you’ve never seen — or heard.
This is a place well worth a visit any time of year, but if you can’t wait for the spectacle of sailing icebergs that drift by in the spring, you can start the New Year before anybody else on the continent, toasting each other in the cold of the harbor front, or staying toasty and happy among new friends in a local pub. Prepare for singing, music and ear-to-ear smiles.
Feed your travel desires
There’s no shortage of places to go and celebrate special events. As we welcome 2018 and revel in this greater holiday season, there are great reasons to leave home throughout the coming year. Right on the heels of New Year’s Day, the Chinese New Year emerges as the next big celebration. We’ll have some more on the Year of the Dog in a future blog, but get ready to keep the party going by finding the next happy place.
Whatever 2018 brings, we hope it’s great health and many successes. Be sure to obey your travel urges. There’s a great world to explore and making travel fun during special holidays with simple getaways is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Speaking of gifts, make sure you bring along a few travel essentials as you venture out to celebrate or just escape.