Travel Comment

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A world of celebrations

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So where will you be spending this New Year's Eve? I have to confess that in recent times I've often been in bed by midnight. But there have been some fantastic festivities in years gone by, usually with family and friends, and mostly at the beach.

The best ever were the typical Kiwi beach gatherings we held for several years, with good friends from Paihia and Okaihau, at Taupo Bay in the Far North.

I also remember a couple of great parties in Dublin where the highlight was the singing, especially a grand version of The Wild Colonial Boy to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky, to the accompaniment of guitar, ukulele and kazoo.

Another year my wife and I celebrated Hogmanay in Edinburgh which is billed as the largest New Year's Eve party in the world. Unfortunately the main festivities had to be cancelled due to high winds but we still managed to join in the longest Strip the Willow on the planet, eat some great food and sup some fine whisky, get misty-eyed at the skirl of the pipes, watch a fireworks display from Edinburgh Castle... and successfully dodge the flying portaloos.

Unsurprisingly, Edinburgh is among the places selected by Expedia.co.nz, part of the world's largest online travel company, as one of the best places in the world to celebrate New Year's Eve.

The Expedia folk also recommend Prague, Amsterdam, New York, Goa, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Barcelona, Bangkok and Capetown as top spots to farewell the old year and welcome the new.

The famous ball drop in New York's Times Square is definitely one of those occasions I'd like to be part of one day.

The annual party on Copacabana Beach, with close to a million people dressed in white, drinking champagne and dancing the samba also sounds pretty special.

I like the sound of Noche Vieja in Barcelona where at the stroke of midnight you can join in the old Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes, one for each chime of the bell, a tradition dating back to the Roman Empire and symbolising the passing of the sweet flavours of the old year into the new.

There's an equally interesting tradition in Tokyo where, if you're lucky, you can join the locals for Toshikoshi Soba (New Year's Eve noodles) while listening to Juya No Kane (The Watch-Night Bell). The noodles symbolise longevity while the bell, which sounds 108 times, rings for prosperity and fortune.

But if it's a party you're looking for then, as the Expedia people say, it's hard to go past Bangkok where they celebrate the new year three times - Western, Chinese and Thai - and for the December 31 version have three official venues.

So have a happy New Year... and if it doesn't work out... maybe you should look a bit further afield next time.

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