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10 Wildest New Year’s Traditions

Celebrate the New Year – any New Year – in style with these 10 New Year’s destination for every traveller’s tastes.

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Pick a Different New Year in Hong Kong

Pick a Different New Year in Hong Kong

Why celebrate just one New Year when you can celebrate two? Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year celebration, the biggest in the world, includes the usual suspects – a night parade, street performances, fireworks – along with the well-wishing festival, a lantern exhibition and the traditional New Year Race Day, during which enthusiasts guarantee good luck for the year by betting on their favourite horse. (Dates vary with each year, but the Chinese New Year falls from late January through mid February.)

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Shake up Tradition in Edinburgh, Scotland

Shake up Tradition in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh takes New Year’s so seriously it’s given the night its own name: Hogmanay. As in pretty much every major city, the event includes a party, music and fireworks, but these coexist with local traditions (which differ throughout Scotland and are varyingly crowd-pleasing) including a torchlight procession on December 30, New Year Games on January 1 (join a team and compete to win tokens) and the world’s biggest Auld Lang Syne.

(Photo courtesy of hettiegm/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Party with Celebs in Las Vegas, Nevada

Party with Celebs in Las Vegas, Nevada

No one can accuse Las Vegas of not knowing how to celebrate. The city’s 2011-12 New Year’s celebrations included parties complete with celebrities (we spotted several Kardashians on the list, plus Canada’s own Pamela Anderson), fireworks shot simultaneously from eight different hotels and shows from performers including Cirque du Soleil, David Copperfield, Guns N’ Roses and Stevie Wonder.

(Photo courtesy of dourmousie/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Party in Your Summer Clothes in Rio de Janerio, Brazil

Party in Your Summer Clothes in Rio de Janerio, Brazil

Residents of the southern hemisphere don’t have to pack their warmest tuque to celebrate New Year’s Eve; in Rio, with the party on Copacabana Beach, you won’t even have to put on fancy shoes so long as you wear white, the traditional colour. The party’s size is second only to Carnival – over two million people share in the festivities every year – and events include live music stages, fireworks and a giant Ferris wheel. Make sure to bring flowers to toss into the ocean before midnight as an offering to the queen of the sea.

(Photo courtesy of alexdecarvalho/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Celebrate Vietnamese-style in California

Celebrate Vietnamese-style in California

Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, usually coincides with the Chinese date though there are occasionally differences in calculation. California hosts the world’s two largest Tet festivals outside of Vietnam, with over 100,000 visitors to the three-day event near Los Angeles and more than 50,000 to its northern sibling in San Jose. Traditional foods, live entertainment, pageants and games take place at both festivals; in San Jose, you’ll find tournaments for taekwondo, volleyball, poker, table tennis and even chess.

(Photo courtesy of mknytblade/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Go Glam at the Czar's Ball in St. Petersburg, Russia

Go Glam at the Czar’s Ball in St. Petersburg, Russia

If anyone knew how to party, it was the Russian aristocracy, who typically wintered in the cities and spent summers in the country – and under the Soviet regime, New Year’s supplanted Christmas to become the country’s biggest occasion. Relive the “height of czarist opulence” at this New Year’s celebration in Russia’s northern capital, hosted in Catherine’s Palace and complete with orchestra, opera and ballet solists, ice sculptures and a celebratory feast featuring fine French and Russian cuisine.

(Photo courtesy of KRHamm/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Celebrate First in Gisborne, New Zealand

Celebrate First in Gisborne, New Zealand

Hop across the international date line to New Zealand, which is the first (besides small islands) to celebrate every new day, including January 1 – and Gisborne, on the eastern end of the North Island, is the first Kiwi city to see the sun rise on the New Year. Check out this wine region’s Rhythm and Vines music festival, held December 29 – 31, to enjoy live music and the company of locals. And remember, it’s summer: On New Year’s Day, weather permitting, head to the beach and be glad you’re missing winter, at least for a while.

(Photo courtesy of Velvet Android/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Join the Throngs in Berlin, Germany

Join the Throngs in Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s celebration on December 31 is among the biggest in Europe, with typically over a million people attending – so book your hotel early. Plan the activities that suit you best, whether it’s special menus in top local restaurants, a mega-party and fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate or one of many shows in the local theatres. Active types will want to burn off the night’s calories at the annual New Year’s Eve Run, which begins around lunchtime and offers your choice of two-, four-, 6.3- or 9.9-km routes, with the trophy going not to the fastest runner, but to the best costume.

(Photo courtesy of [email protected]/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Celebrate Twice at Mexico Beach, Florida

Celebrate Twice at Mexico Beach, Florida

The boundary between Eastern and Central time zones lies near Panama City, giving locals and visitors the chance to ring in the New Year twice. Start in the East at Port St. Joe and St. Joe Beach, then take advantage of free trolley service to travel west to Mexico Beach in time to do the whole thing all over again.

(Photo courtesy of bsglasgow/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Ring in Spring in Toronto

Ring in Spring in Toronto

Nowruz, the Persian new year, occurs on the spring equinox and has been celebrated across regions of Persian cultural heritage, including Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, for millennia. Today, with about 200,000 Iranian immigrants in Toronto, it is celebrated here as well; in 2011, for instance, locals marked the occasion with events including an art exhibition and a Purim/Nowruz fusion event. Nowruz activities include spring cleaning the home, purchasing new clothes and Haft Sin (“seven S’s”), a traditional table setting that includes seven requisite and numerous optional items all starting with S, including garlic, coins and a hyacinth.

(Photo courtesy of Ehsan-Khakbaz/Flickr Creative Commons)