From flaming balls to burning barrels, a drag queen drop to an all-night Junkanoo – we see in 2014 with some of the world’s quirkiest celebrations
Watch the fireballs in Stonehaven, Scotland
Thousands of revellers line the street in this small town near Aberdeen to witness the century-old Hogmany celebration, when locals swing fireballs around their heads in a parade. The fireballs, which are made from a mix of things like coal, old jumpers and fir cones, all soaked in paraffin, are ignited just before midnight and the hair-singeing event lasts around 20 minutes. We challenge you to find a better way to keep warm this winter than from the flaming balls of 50 Scots.
• Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. stonehavenfireballs.co.uk
Have a cracker of a time at Paramaribo, Suriname
Earplugs? Check. Firefighters? Check. Two-kilometre string of firecrackers? Check. It may not be the safest idea, but this explosive tradition each year at the city of Paramaribo always draws a huge crowd. Thousands of people line the streets of the South American city to watch as a wall of firecrackers, known as a “pagara”, is strung together before being ignited to blast away evil spirits.
Countdown to the Red Shoe Drop in Florida
It is impossible to count how many variations of the “new year drop” there are around the world, but none are quite as fabulous as Key West’s Red Shoe Drop, during which a drag queen named Sushi is lowered to the ground from inside a gigantic high-heeled strutter. The kitsch extravaganza originated in 1996, when Sushi was placed inside a chicken wire and paper mache construction, and caused such a ruckus it was almost shut down by the police. But since getting the blessing of the mayor, the event has become an annual tradition, albeit with a much higher quality (and presumably safer) shoe.
• Bourbon Street Pub, Key West, bourbonstpub.com
Burn dummies in Cuenca, Ecuador
In scenes that resemble a fire at a comic book factory, thousands of colourful home-made dummies are burnt across Ecuador as a new year tradition. The city of Cuenca has become the central place to watch and take part in these festivities, which symbolise the ousting of old grudges and bad habits as well as highlighting good memories. It’s a great opportunity to burn your favourite celebrity – Barack Obama dummies are particularly common.
Join the Allendale Tar Bar’l Ceremony, England
Party like its the dark ages at this historic new year festival, during which men dressed in pagan attire march whisky barrels filled with flaming tar across the town square. The parade is driven by a band comprising brass and drums, and climaxes with a cry of “‘Be damned to he who throws last”, before the barrels are hurled into a bonfire, sending sparks and flames up into the sky.
• Allendale, Northumberland, England. visitnorthumberland.com/allendale
Watch the sun rise from Mount Takao, Japan
Seeing in the first sun rise of the new year is a hugely popular activity in Japan, with many people taking to the mountain tops to enjoy spectacular dawn views. Mount Takao, situated 50km outside of Tokyo, is perhaps the easiest place to enjoy this tradition – just hop on a train from the city then take a cable car up to the top of the foothills to join the crowds of people keeping watch for the sun. Priests at the Yakuo-in temple, which is situated on the mountain, create a mystical soundscape as they blow conch shells and perform prayers for Geikosai – the festival to welcome the light.
Join the Junkanoo in Nassau, Bahamas
It sounds like a relative of the Jabberwocky, but the Junkanoo is in fact a vibrant Bahamian festival that takes the form of an all-night carnival. It kicks off in at 2am on New Year’s Day, seeing in the first light with a colourful (and very loud) parade, featuring dancers peacocking about in elaborate costumes, moving to the rhythm of goatskin drums, cowbells and whistles.
Make offerings to the sea at Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil
It may be big, but it’s still magical. Around two million people descend on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach – all dressed in white – to celebrate new year with a whole host of rituals topped off with a jaw-dropping fireworks display. Thousands of small hand-made boats are loaded with offerings to the goddess of the water and left to float off to sea. Then, of course, there are hours and hours of partying.