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From Plate Throwing to Grape Eating, IgoUgo Editors Scour the Globe for the Best New Year's Traditions

Top Travel Site Finds the 10 Most Unique Celebrations

NEW YORK – December 18, 2008 – The biggest party night of the year is quickly approaching and, one of the fastest growing online travel communities in the world, pulled together a list of wild and wonderful New Year's Eve celebrations to excite even the most seasoned travelers. All around the world people kick off the New Year with celebrations dating back hundreds of years, and IgoUgo is sharing some of their favorite places to start the year right.

“New Year’s Eve is one of the best times to travel,” said Michelle Doucette, content manager at “Anyone looking for rich displays of culture will love spending the holiday in these destinations, which all celebrate in particularly unique or over-the-top ways.”

IgoUgo editors, quoting advice and impressions from their savvy members, compiled their picks for the best places to visit on New Year’s Eve.

IgoUgo’s Top 10 Most Unique New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Scotland: Hogmanay

For something new this year, try something very, very old (or should we say auld?): Hogmanay, Scotland’s New Year’s Eve holiday. Edinburgh is the epicenter of celebrations, which include fireworks and a “stunning” torchlight procession. Regular revelers say that “there is little better way to ring in the new year than on North Bridge in the rain with hundreds of other Scots all singing the Burns song.” After the clock strikes midnight and kisses conclude, “a single piper” will play you to your hotel, where you might be toasted as the “first-foot” if you’re the first person to cross the threshold after midnight.

Spain: Twelve grapes

Whether you join the locals indulging in a traditional “big meal” with family or pile into Madrid’s “Times Square-like” Puerta del Sol, be sure to “eat a grape every time the bells toll”—12 times in all—for a sweet year. One warning: “with all the hooting, hollering, and champagne-popping at midnight,” you’ll need to listen carefully for your cues to chew grapes.

Denmark: Broken dishes

After the queen’s 6pm New Year’s Eve address, Danes begin their traditional December 31 dinner with a “large feast” of lamb or cod and end it with loads of broken dishes as they throw plates at friends’ homes to express their (hopefully more resilient) friendship. Add in the newer conventions of champagne and fireworks, and you have a smashing party.

Greece: Feast of St. Basil

Mid-winter is an ideal time to visit Greece while it’s locals-only “lively,” offering “more of a sense of place” than when it’s full of summer’s visitors. And New Year’s Eve, celebrated as the Feast of St. Basil, is a huge party, with gift giving (St. Basil, much like St. Nicholas, brings goodies for the kids) and tables full of vasilopita cake.

Colombia: Old-Year Doll

Know someone you’d just as soon forget? Head to Colombia and join locals in sweeping away out-of-favor figures with the old year by crafting an Año Viejo, or Old-Year Doll. Filled with “old clothes and newspaper,” and then fireworks, the doll is burned at midnight in “fun and awesome” fashion, “especially when Mr. Old Year is made to look like politicians or unlikable characters from everyday life.”

Ecuador: Effigies, yellow clothing, and jogs

Like communities in Colombia, Ecuadorians “place effigies outside almost every business and house” in hopes of a new year without the puppets’ real-life counterparts. But while the effigies burn, the real people are “running around the block 12 times (in order to facilitate a trip to foreign shores) while wearing the color yellow, said to bring good luck.” In Quito, everyone spills onto the streets, including the president, “on a city walk to see what celebrations are about to unfold.”

Brazil: Seven waves and floating flowers

Once you spend New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, “you'll want to go back every year.” Beneath the sparkly fireworks and glitzy concerts lie many authentic traditions and superstitions as Brazilians pay homage to Yemanja, the goddess of the seas. At the stroke of midnight, the white-clad crowd heads into the ocean to jump seven waves and release flowers in a display that “will blow you away,” while, back on the beach, others create shrines and burn fires to ask the gods “for a better future.”

Mexico: Suitcases and eggshells

Take your pick of “spectacular” fireworks over Mexican resorts from coast to coast, but keep your suitcase at the ready to welcome the año nuevo in the traditional way: carry your luggage around the block if you hope the new year brings you many travels. Once you’ve put your carry-on in a safe place, pick up an “egg shell filled with confetti and flour” and join others in cracking them on people’s heads.

Japan: Cleaning house and 108 bells

New Year’s Eve, or Oshogatsu, is an important time in Japan, and you’ll find Tokyo looking “absolutely beautiful” as locals don kimonos and clean house before quite literally ringing in the new year with 108 taps of temple bells—visitors can even have a ring. There and throughout the country, mochi rice balls are the centerpiece of a much-anticipated annual feast.

New Zealand: World’s first and cricket

To be among those traditionally considered the first in the world to welcome the new year, head to the “laid-back” shores of Gisborne, New Zealand. It’s the first city to see the sun each day, and the first to see midnight come January 1. Or head to the South Island and Queenstown to participate—OK, spectate—in the newer tradition of the New Year’s Eve international cricket match featuring the Kiwis’ national team, the Black Caps.

About IgoUgo

IgoUgo is the fastest growing online travel community in the world. Its more than 500,000 members—world-seasoned and passionate travelers—share firsthand travel experiences, advice, and more than 330,000 photos to date, with candid tips and inspiring stories covering more than 8,000 global destinations. Site users can search by keyword to find reviews by like-minded travelers, as well as destination guides and helpful links. Members can easily contact one another to ask questions, exchange information, and build friendships without geographic bounds. IgoUgo has garnered top industry honors, including being named one of Forbes’ “Best Travel Sites” in 2006, a Webby Award for “Best Travel Site in the U.S.,” a “Top Travel Site” ranking from USA Today, and “Best Travel Community” and “Top Travel Site” commendations from Yahoo Internet Life.