As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome in 2019, we have a lot of travel plans for the coming year. We’re celebrating 50 years of helping clients make their travel dreams come true, and along the way we’ve picked up some favorite New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2019. Use some of these tricks from other cultures to ensure a prosperous new year.
At the clock hits midnight, Spaniards eat a grape at each chime. The 12 grapes represent good luck in each month of the coming year. After midnight, the party really begins, as Spaniards take to the streets and pass around bottles of cava. In large cities, especially the capital of Madrid, they gather in the main squares and celebrate deep into the night. As the sun rises, they drink hot chocolate and eat churros before heading to bed for most of the day. Sounds like something we can get behind.
It being summertime and water being such a big part of Brazilian culture, a lot of New Year’s traditions are centered around the ocean. Flowers and floating candles are put to sea as offerings to the goddess Iemanja, a water deity from the Yoruba religion brought to the Americas by African slaves. Some people jump over seven waves, making a wish with each hop. Others eat seven raisins and keep the seeds in their wallets to encourage money to grow. Most wear white as a symbol of peace, mixing in green for health, yellow for money, red for passion and purple for inspiration.
The Japanese hold bonenkai parties to forget the old year’s troubles and leave them in the past. The traditional meal is soba noodles to promote a long life. Watching the sunrise on Jan. 1 to greet the new year is a popular pastime. Temples and shrines attract visitors from across the country by the millions from Jan. 1-3, when most businesses are closed. People send out cards to friends, loved ones and co-workers that are marked for delivery on New Year’s Day, and the first three days of the year are spent with family.
In Cape Town, people head up to the top of Table Mountain before a night on the waterfront. There’s a sunset concert at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on the slopes of the mountain, and the last tram back down to the city is at 9:30 p.m. Fireworks light up the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at midnight, and afterward revelers head to all-night beach parties by candlelight. A day outside the city in the Cape Winelands is also a terrific getaway, and it stays light out until around 8 p.m.
The evening starts out rather tame, with a speech from the queen at 6 p.m. Things get progressively more rowdy, as Danes meet friends for a big late dinner after a snack of cod with mustard sauce at home. It’s one of the six nights a year shooting off fireworks is legal, and Danes make the most of it. At midnight, they smash old dishes on the doors of friends. While cleaning up in the morning might not be the most fun thing in the world, a big mess means you have lots of friends who love you enough to trash your house.
Not every island is a sand-and-sun beach destination where you go to crack open a good book, sip a tropical drink and forget about the worries of home for a few days. Some are full of wildlife and culture and things you can’t find anywhere else. Maybe they’re a little bit out there. Maybe they’re cold or the beaches aren’t anything to write home about. But they’re worth exploring. This week, we visit a few of them.
The world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar lies east of Mozambique and is home to 5 percent of the world’s wildlife and vegetation. While the beaches are great, there is a diversity of terrain from rainforest to desert, and much of the flora and fauna are unique to the island. Of the more than 200 bird species, about half are found only on Madagascar, which has almost 20,000 plant species, including seven types of the baobab tree. Lemurs leap from tree to tree, while chameleons cling to the branches, making for an entirely different kind of safari experience.
A teardrop-shaped island off the southeastern tip of India, Sri Lanka has recently opened up to the outside world after a 30-year civil war ended in 2009. Marco Polo called it “the finest island in the world,” and it yields treasures far beyond the many precious gems found in its soil. Its two dozen national parks are home to elephants, leopards, sloth bears, and deer. As far as human contribution, Anuradhapura served as the capital for nearly 1,500 years and is still a sacred site for Buddhists, while Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress full of murals and gardens that was a revolutionary example of urban planning in the fifth century.
The seat of the Republic of China since defeat at the hands of the communists shortly after World War II, Taiwan has developed a unique culture that is a mix of aboriginal, Chinese and Japanese elements. With nearly 25 million inhabitants, it packs about 1,700 people into every square mile. At 1,671 feet, Taipei 101 in the capital city briefly held the title of world’s tallest building, though now it’s struggling to remain in the top 10. Street food is the hallmark of Taiwanese dining, with tofu, rice, pork, and vegetables all enjoying starring roles. Outside the city are temples in gorgeous natural settings reminiscent of a much older way of life.
There is a settlement with a couple dozen non-permanent human inhabitants at any given time on this island east of Tierra del Fuego and north of Antarctica. There’s even a church. But the main attraction is penguins. Tens of thousands of king, Gentoo and macaroni penguins share space with elephant and fur seals. South Georgia is also where Ernest Shackleton landed in a lifeboat on of one of the most harrowing rescue missions of all time after a wreck some 800 miles away, then hiked more than 20 miles to a whaling station for help. Not to worry, though, you’ll be safe in the hands of our Virtuoso partners.
About 50,000 brave souls inhabit this archipelago between Iceland and Norway, and it’s assuredly not for the beaches. An independent country in the Kingdom of Denmark (after a treaty with Norway in 1814), the Faroes play host to Europe’s largest puffin colony and dramatic waterfalls tumbling to the North Atlantic. There are several animal species that have evolved uniquely in isolation, such as the Faroe pony, strong as a horse but with a smaller stature and the Faroe sheep. The friendly population has an interesting blend of Norse and Celtic heritage and are fond of traditional saga-like songs accompanied by dance known as kvaedir, some of which are hundreds of verses long.