This New Year’s Eve, let go of the tired, old balls in Times Square and grow a new pair. A night notorious for debauchery from Zanzibar to Managua, set your New Year's sights on these more foreign soirees and start the year the right way: toasted, smiling and perhaps a little naked.
Strut the boulevards like Kafka on acid in Prague. The people are friendly, backpackers are everywhere and parties spill into the streets and terraces. The big draw here are the fireworks displays along the Charles River. If you've saved your pennies for the big night, for a cool $150 bucks you can book a spot on the Party Boat to get in the middle of the action. If floating fancy is too rich for your blood, you can see the midnight fireworks boom over the Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge for free. Engage your weasel-like maneuvering skills, it will be crowded.
OTP Tip: The central Old Town Square is filled with people setting off firecrackers, so keep to the river if you’re jumpy.
Children and hellraisers blow on toy horns called Torotot on Dec. 31. With enough firecrackers to finish off every endangered species on the planet, the Filipinos ring in the New Year with the most annoying sounds known to man. Polka-dots and pockets full of change are the regional attire for good luck. Dig up grandma's Christmas sweater, throw some metal in your pockets and jingle with reckless abandon. The midnight hour is welcomed by noisy feasting, drinking and gambling.
Desert Party: Dubai
Toke a hookah into the midnight sky this year. Once famous for banning the celebration completely, Dubai’s clubs have nothing on the famous desert safari party. Granted, this thing costs 399 Dirhams (about $100 bucks) but you get an open bar, several desert BBQ stations, belly dance shows, sheesha-smoking till you choke and, for the pyro in all of us, some amazing fire-entertainment. There's no better way to celebrate New Year's, Middle-Eastern style (even if you have to shelve out 100 bones.)
The Most Off-Schedule: Spain
Spaniards are notorious for taking their sweet time to start the party. While some festivities do start on time (eating a grape for every bong of the clock at midnight), people usually hang at home with family until midnight and the real party typically starts around 12:30 a.m. To compensate for the tardiness, the country immediately erupts into partymode and goes until sunrise – and beyond. In Spain, six different celebrations occur around New Year’s, from a ‘practice’ party at noon on the 30th to Salamanca’s Noche Vieja party in mid-December. Get even further off-schedule by going to Berchules, where New Year’s happens twice (in mid-August, as well as on Dec. 31). Spain gets five stars for partying like there’s no tomorrow...and doing it again when tomorrow inevitably comes.
One night not enough for you greedy NYE-loving party freaks? Party for a month in Taiwan. This island of plenty is all about the Lunar New Year, so do the Gregorian party Jan 1 before heading to Taiwan for some lunar action. Lion dancers, firecrackers and rituals mark the coming of the Chinese New Year to assure luck and many lays for the year to come. Join in a game of street Mahjong and clink glasses in the wake of dragons and flashing gunpowder.
Sporty(ish) New Year: Croatia
Croatia’s New Year’s festivities roll hard throughout the country. A new backpacker favorite is in Split (Croatia's second largest city) and its big attraction happens during New Year's day on January 1st, at Bacvice beach. It's called Picigin, a game where men, submerged in ass-icicle cold water, try to pass a little rubber ball around without letting it hit the water. Go to sleep really early on New Year's Eve (say 9 pm) so you can keep your well-rested eye on that little ball for hours in the morning. If you just can't fall asleep at grandma's bedtime, might as well take a little walk to Club Vanilla, maybe party for 10-12 hours to tire yourself for the big game; have some champagne, kiss a couple locals, whatever it takes.
If you find yourself in Zagreb: The giant heated tent in the main square keeps bumping for days after NYE, perfect if you’re an awkward lingerer who never knows when to leave the party.
Most Confused: Turkey
New Year’s is the only American gig celebrated in Turkey during the holiday season. Since holiday celebrations are fed to Turkey via globalized media, people in Istanbul often confuse New Year's with Christmas, Thanksgiving or whatever-the-fuck-ghetto-cowboy- holiday. This turns Dec. 31 into a rompin' disaster worth witnessing. Celebrate Christmas with a New Year's tree and a spooky pumpkin Easter pie. People still countdown the clock and party late night but the decorations and festivities are less like traditional New Year's and more like a mashed up holiday cocktail of utter confusion. Preach the proper way to celebrate or keep your mouth shut and enjoy the messed up fun.
Best Beach Celebration: Sri Lanka
No longer just fun to say, Sri Lanka is a great spot to visit for a warm spin on New Year's. Traditionally, Sinhalese New Year's is celebrated by rubbing yourself down with plants when the moon moves out of Aries (in April). By December 31st, Sri Lankans are good and covered in plant matter and ready to celebrate with the rest of the world. Parties along Unawatuna beach blow up for NYE and make the Maldives (their snobby, rich bitch neighbor) insanely jealous. Get there a few days early to secure a spot at the beach hostel. Temps are in the 80s and if you can pry your eyes open the next day, go watch the elephants from the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage take their daily bath in the river (10 a.m. or 2 p.m.)
Biggest Party: Valparaiso, Chile
This coastal city throbs all night at Plaza Sotomayor, with raucous sprays of Chilean bubbly and colorful confetti. A central stage is set up with live music that goes until breakfast (8am ish) and attracts approximately a shit ton of people. Comprised of about 40 tons of explosives (roughly equivalent to 6-7 elephants), the close-by fireworks last for about 20 minutes. The weather in January is warm (the whole other hemisphere thing) and sleeping on the streets is perfectly acceptable. Basically, this party is HUGE so expect crowds, groping and lots of midnight besitosfrom other travelers.
Whether you’re a lingerer, a wannabe peacemonger, medicine man, pyromaniac or beach bum, there’s something just for you. Remember, fireworks plus alcohol equals less than ten (fingers on your hands), so party responsibly and enjoy NYE to the max.