Top 10 New Year’s Eve celebrations
Chime in the New Year with festivities both large and small around the world on this intercontinental journey.
New York City, New York
New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square defines the evening for an estimated one billion-plus people around the globe who watch on television, wishing they were there. A million revellers squeeze into the city’s neon epicentre where Broadway and Seventh Avenue come together, waiting for the Waterford crystal LED ball to drop from the former New York Times Building, for which the iconic square is named. It’s an American tradition more than 100 years old.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Ring in the New Year casino style in kitschy Las Vegas, where fireworks blast over Paris Las Vegas, the MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and the array of other casino hotels on the famous Strip. The city buzzes with hundreds of thousands who come in for special concerts and performances with the biggest stars, until the sun comes up over the surrounding desert.
The three-day-long Toyohashi Gion Festival is known for its hand-tubed fireworks (tezutsu Hanabi). Masters carry gunpowder-filled bamboo cylinders in their arms as sparks fly and flames shoot out.
The sleepy village of Nan in northern Thailand bursts into life during this fireworks festival, prompting one spectator to throw out their arms with joy.
Jerusalem kicks off Independence Day with a ceremony at Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery. A sombre mood soon turns celebratory as the city erupts with parties, concerts, and fireworks.
In Takayama, Japan, summer tradition involves building a temporary bridge on the Miyagawa River and “shooters” setting off handheld fireworks.
Cities throughout the U.S. celebrate Independence Day with a bang—and big, expensive fireworks displays. Still, as this creative patriot can attest, there’s a thrill to making your own.
The resort town of Paguera, Mallorca, needs little excuse to party. Expect fireworks displays on St. John’s Day; at the culmination of the Fiesta of King James; and on designated “Tourist Day.”
Every few years, Bastille Day fireworks are launched from Paris’s Eiffel Tower, giving some lucky technicians the chance to witness the spectacle from an unrivalled location.
Dubai loves to do things bigger. In 2014, this show of 500,000 fireworks earned the city-emirate (since-surpassed in the Philippines) a Guinness World Record for a most prominent fireworks display.
Judging has the distinction of being China’s roundest village. This long exposure highlights the town’s unusual feature as the lights of Chinese New Year celebrations encircle its Hui-style architecture.
Fireworks explode over the golden spired Ratchamangkhala Pavilion in Suan Luang Rama IX Park. This display was in commemoration of the birthday of King Rama IX, Thailand’s late monarch.
While fireworks light up the Muscat sky, these two young brothers in traditional dress share a tender moment that reminds photographer Abdul Azeez Pulikkool of “a biblical scene.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY ABDUL AZEEZ PULIKKOOL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT
An integral part of summer, the Japanese word for fireworks is Hanabi, which translates to “flowers of fire.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY RYUJI K., NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT
North of Boston, the city of Somerville bids farewell to summer with Riverfest, a weekend of art, music, and children’s activities that culminates in fireworks over Mystic River.
Hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts flock to Wisconsin each July for the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The weeklong event culminates in a display of air show performers and pyrotechnics.
Bursting in a crisp winter sky, fireworks are reflected in the surrounding water. Aizawa’s image offers a different view of the perfect, but the familiar, shape of snowcapped Mount Fuji.
Each January, the grass on Nara’s Mount Wakakusayama is set alight. A spectacle in itself, which can be seen throughout the city, the burning is preceded by a firework display.
Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, is the setting for an appropriately massive fireworks festival. Each summer, thousands of fireworks explode in the sky, creating colourful reflections on the lake’s surface.
As New Year fireworks explode in a clear sky over San Francisco Bay, their bright colours complement the glowing lights of the Bay Bridge and city skyline.
Rindge, New Hampshire
Big-city Fourth of July fireworks are incredible, writes Harasimowicz, but small family displays “are so much more intimate.” She added red flares for “a truly red, white, and blue moment.”
Captured on a recent New Year’s Eve, rockets shooting from the sides of Seattle’s Space Needle create the illusion of the structure blasting into space.
Rio de Janeiro
Shot from above, Coustais’ image captures the huge crowds that have turned out for Rio de Janeiro’s New Year’s fireworks display—a testament to their universal and timeless appeal.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Réveillon, Rio’s New Year’s celebration, is one of the world’s largest. Dressed in white like Candomblé priestesses, millions of locals and visitors line the city’s miles of beaches, throwing flowers into the waves at midnight for the African sea goddess Yemanjá, whose traditions have become mixed with the Virgin Mary. Afterwards, the streets, bars, and restaurants fill with parties, dancing, and music.
Millions of eager Londoners line the Thames waterfront, waiting for the city to explode in a dazzling display of sparks and colour. At midnight, the tower around Big Ben pulses with fiery blasts timed for the 12 strokes of the hour. All eyes then turn to the London Eye as the famous wheel produces a swirling fireworks and light show timed to British rock music echoing through the city.
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The City of Light becomes a city of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Hundreds of thousands line the Champs-Élysées, champagne bottles in hand, for a view to the Eiffel Tower. At midnight, fireworks burst from the entire length of its iron structure, in one of this evening’s most beautiful displays anywhere. Other gathering spots with great views include the steps of Sacré-Couer church and the Trocadéro.
Madrileños celebrate the New Year by swallowing 12 grapes—one for each stroke of the clock at midnight. Finishing them on time is considered to be a sign of good luck in the upcoming year. Tens of thousands gather in front of the clock in Puerta del Sol plaza for the annual ritual and line Gran Via to watch fireworks.
Each New Year brings a promise of peace in the capital of formerly war-torn Lebanon. Thousands gather to watch the light show on the city’s 1933 art deco clock tower in Nejmeh Square, the heart of central Beirut. At midnight, couples kiss and fireworks burst, shining over a mix of floodlit church steeples and mosque minarets in this eclectic Levantine metropolis.
On New Year’s Eve in Tokyo, streets and restaurants teem with people, many eating buckwheat noodles to ensure health and happiness in the New Year. Temples ring bells as a countdown to midnight, adding a dreamy quality to the celebration. Stay in town through January 2, one of only two days when the emperor opens the palace grounds to the public.
Christmas Island, South Pacific
Named after another holiday (and famed as the likely location of Amelia Earhart’s missing aeroplane), Christmas Island, or Kiritimati (in the South Pacific republic of Kiribati), is among the first inhabited places in the world to celebrate the New Year. With only around 5,000 residents, New Year’s Eve is an intimate affair, much of the island being a protected wildlife sanctuary.
Everyone comes to the waterfront in Sydney to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and nearby buildings ignite at midnight with one of the world’s most spectacular fireworks productions.