As the end of the year approaches, it’s an exciting time for people all over the world. No matter what country you’re in, you’ll find ways to mark another successful turn around the sun and ring in New Year’s in good company and good spirits! Depending on where you’re from, however, New Year’s traditions can vary greatly. Here are some of the best ways we can think of to celebrate the end of the year, and get the new one started off on the right foot.
Nothing brings a crowd together like ringing in the new year. Pretty much any city, town, village or hamlet will have some sort of celebration that you can join in the countdown to midnight. There’s often other festivities that take place in the lead-up to the big event, like free outdoor concerts or ice skating, and if you’re lucky, expect a fireworks display when the clock strikes midnight. Speaking of clocks, London’s Big Ben is one of the most famous places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve; every year an estimated 3 million people gather on the Thames River to watch the world’s most famous clock chime 12 times and bring a close to another year.
There’s a saying you’ll start to hear a lot after Christmas and throughout the first few weeks of January: “New year, new you!” For many people, a new year means a fresh start and a chance to develop new habits they’ve been putting off. A New Year’s resolution is a promise you make to yourself to start doing something differently, especially if it will make a positive impact in your life. Some common resolutions include getting fit, eating healthy, or learning a new skill that you’ve always wanted to try. If you’ve always wanted to go abroad and study, for example — this could be your year to finally make it happen!
Although most people wouldn’t be able to tell you what it means, “Auld Lang Syne” is the song most commonly associated with the passage of an old year into new. While it’s officially credited to the Scottish poet Robbie Burns, this song, commonly played just after midnight, goes back centuries as an old oral tradition. The title and chorus literally translates to “old long since,” but the meaning it conveys is closer to “days gone by” — a perfect message to pay respects and bid farewell to the past 365 days.
Just like “Auld Lang Syne,” this midnight tradition goes way back — all the way to the Ancient Romans. It’s persisted since then, in part because who doesn’t love a kiss? But also because it’s considered good luck for the future year. Old folklore says that kissing at midnight can dispel evil spirits and strengthen the relationships you have. Don’t just choose anyone for this romantic ritual, though; there’s a saying that you ought to “kiss the person you hope to keep kissing” in the new year.
Get your year started feeling fresh by getting outside and being active! While many people might choose to stay indoors from the festivities the night before, a much better way to spend the January 1 public holiday is being in the great outdoors. Lots of people mark the new year with outdoor activities like runs, hikes, walks — or something called a polar bear plunge, where participants in jump into freezing water, usually to raise money for charity. You’ll find polar dips all around Canada, America, Great Britain, and even one in South Korea!
On the 364th day of every year, people all across the globe celebrate what we know as New Year’s Eve. No one really knows how the tradition came to be, but it’s a time to gather with your loved ones, look on all of you’ve achieved in the past year and look forward to a fresh start.
However, this year is a special one — we are entering a new decade: 2020. So in order to have a grand start, here is a list of three places in the United States that would be the perfect place to start new and fresh.
As the clock strikes midnight in Hawaii, you’ll hear everyone yell “Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!”, which means Happy New Year in their local language. In Hawaii, it is legal to purchase fireworks and light them up yourself. That’s why many locals will gather in their neighborhoods and light fireworks together as it hits midnight.
However, if you aren’t near any neighborhoods, there’s always the annual NYE party down at Hilo Bay. Every year, Hilo Bay hosts the annual New Year’s Eve Firework show. Locals and visitors can watch from the beach, Hilo Bay Cafe or even better, in the middle of the ocean. A local company called KapohoKine Adventures hosts a NYE paddle out experience every year. You can rent a single or double kayak and, along with others and a guide, paddle out into the middle of the ocean and watch the fireworks go off at midnight. This is definitely something very unique and you should take advantage of it if you’re in Hawaii!
If you are studying abroad at any of the locations in California, you are sure to find many NYE activities there. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, there are celebrations going on throughout the state; so if you plan to do something big, it would be best to look up what is going on around you that day.
Another option could be watching the fireworks from Santa Monica Pier. Although the pier doesn’t host its own event, you can still view the fireworks from the boardwalk or beach. Santa Monica Pier might be the place for you if you are looking for a younger crowd and less people — an added bonus are all the rides and yummy food!
3. New york City
And last but not least, the most famous place to spend NYE is New York City. NYC is grand even when you’re not there to ring in the new year; however, everyone knows the madness and greatness that goes down at Times Square that time of year.
As you may know, Times Square is known for its famous “ball drop,” but how exactly did that come to be? People have been celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square since 1904, but it wasn't until 1907 when the ball made its first descent. Ever since then, thousands of people from all over come to see this tradition and share the moment with their friends, family and loved ones. So if you’re planning to be a part of this magical night, here are a few tips will come in handy:
This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and although there are many other events in the New York area, this is something so grand and popular that people all over the world watch on television. If you are in New York, don’t miss out on this opportunity!
Although NYE is celebrated quite similarly all around the world, it is truly a new experience when you are in a completely different place from where you grew up or are used to. If you have the chance to study abroad in the fall, then spending NYE in the States will be an experience you will never forget!
From Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, SAF Correspondent Jungwon Choi is chronicling her journey at the University of Westminster.
What does Christmas look like in London?
This is Jungwon from the University of Westminster. I hope everyone had a great term wherever you are! After finishing all of my essays and saying goodbye to friends, I am wrapping up my life here in London. Lots of things to send back home, stuff to pack and people to say goodbye to, but also lots of celebration in the air! Christmas is not as big of a deal in Korea as it is here in London so I am trying to take in and enjoy all the festive vibes. Since none of the shops were open on Christmas, I decided to walk around and enjoy the festive mood without all the hassle we usually have around Oxford and Picadilly Circus. I wanted to share with you what Christmas looks like in London, so I made a short video! Hope you enjoy it! Also, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!
SAF Correspondent Yue Shao from Xiamen University is reporting from UC Santa Barbara.
THE SEMESTER FLEW BY, BUT THERE ARE MANY THINGS TO REMEMBER.
One of my favorite things about the campus is the grass. When the California sun isn’t too strong, a short nap on the grass at noon makes me really happy. The library has a bright learning atmosphere; students can obtain materials and have a variety of spots to study. My classmates are really enthusiastic, and they even provide me rides if I need it. Public transportation here isn’t as common, so it might not be convenient for those who don’t have a car to go to places that are kind of far. Do not be shy to ask help from others — they will be happy to help! You'll often hear compliments, whether it's about your clothes or how you look today. It shows how important respecting each other and behaving within the rules of the community is.
The University of Bristol is one of the top ten universities in the UK. Located in the southwest of England near sandy beaches, it’s a two-hour train ride from London, Birmingham and some of the best other places Britain has to offer. Bristol is a vibrant student city with a rich history, and it’s a wonderfully welcoming place to spend a semester or two studying abroad making memories.
But English in the UK and in Bristol—or Brizzle, as the locals say—is very different than the language you learn in the classroom. Thankfully, we’re here to help.
Across the UK, Brits use terms of endearment for everyone, whether they’re close family or complete strangers.
It would sound strange if you tried to use it when you talk to a local, but now you know why everyone is talking about lovers in Bristol — it’s not because they’re all romantics.
In the dictionary, lush means “growing vigorously with luxuriant foliage.” It should make you think of deep forests with long, winding paths. But this is not what it means in Bristol.
In Bristol, lush means that something is really nice. It’s a bit like saying something is fantastic. You might have a lush dinner, a lush cup of tea, a lush evening out — and it will be something to tell your lush family about when you get back home.
Feel free to use lush when you’re talking with local students. Everyone uses it. A lot.
Interesting is possibly one of the most useful words in the English language. Depending on how you say it, you can infer a completely different meaning. So, although the meaning doesn’t change, the attitude really does.
When someone says what you’re saying is “very interesting,” they might think what you’re saying is a little strange. Pay attention to body language when someone uses the word. If they seem engaged and like they’re enjoying the conversation, keep talking. If they look a little confused, help clarify what you meant.
Tea and coffee are everywhere, and the Brits love it as much as you do — they have a surprisingly deep emotional connection to it. But they don’t always call it tea or coffee.
In the UK, a cuppa is either a cup of tea or a cup of coffee; cuppa is short for “cup of.” Often, British people will say, “Do you want a cuppa?” Or, “Do you fancy a cuppa?” They are asking if you’d like a cup of tea or coffee. A good answer would be, “I’d love a tea, please.” Or, “A coffee would be great, thank you.”
You might hear phrases like “I could kill a cuppa,” or “I could murder a cuppa.” Don’t be alarmed! No one will get hurt. These are just expressions that show how much they love their tea and coffee. Brits genuinely believe a cuppa will solve everything. Hard day at uni? Have a cuppa. Spent all night on an essay? Have a cuppa. Lost your library card? Have a cuppa.
So if you’re in the student halls and someone seems sad, is missing home or having a hard day, offer them a cuppa. Biscuits (the rest of the world calls them cookies) are a good idea, too.
True story: a British student’s bike brakes broke, she crashed into the back of a bus and hurt herself — though not badly, thankfully. The bus was not damaged, but the student proceeded to say sorry to the bus.
Brits have a habit of apologizing, whether it be for someone else bumping into them or not having the right change. Apparently, the average Brit says sorry eight times a day, and one-eighth of people will apologize up to 20 times a day.
After some time in Bristol, you might just also pick up the habit as well.
Happy Holidays from all of us here at SAF. As we approach the end of 2019, now is the perfect time to reflect on this past year. As we look forward to 2020, don't forget to spend some time with your family and friends this season and into the next year.
We hope you have a happy holiday and new year!
Deck the halls! The holiday season is well and truly upon us, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Scrooge for the rest of the year — it’s impossible to not get into the festive spirit once December hits. One of the world’s most popular holidays, Christmas is celebrated near and far, but the traditions that mark the special occasion can range from charming to downright quirky. Here are some of our favorite Christmas celebrations that you’ll find around Europe.
With its world famous Christmas markets and mulled wine, no one does Christmas like Germany! Christmas markets, also known as Christkindlmarkt, are street markets that are open throughout December, in honor of the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas Day. These adorable markets sell food, drink and handicrafts, as well as host traditional song and dance performances. While Christmas markets can be found all over the world, they originated from Germany; the first one was held in Dresden in 1434. Make sure you try Stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake, and wash it down with a cup of mulled wine, a sweet red wine that’s been heated up and spiced to perfection with cinnamon, cloves and fruit.
As the home of Catholicism, Italy’s celebration of Christmas is a month-long affair. Starting in early December and running all the way until January 6, Italians love to get into the holiday spirit with markets, nativity scenes, and of course, a lot of pasta! They often observe a fast on Christmas Eve and eat heartily at multi-course lunch spreads on Christmas Day. But you won’t see any gifts being exchanged; a witch-like figure known as “La Befana” is supposed to deliver presents to good boys and girls on the last day of the celebration, also known as Epiphany Eve. If that seems like quite a wait, there’s something to sweeten the pot — it’s also a tradition to eat panettone, a holiday cake with raisins and candied fruits, that day.
Why wait until December 25 to get the party started? In Sweden, people celebrate on Christmas Eve, also known as Julafton. One of the most highly anticipated days of the year, the Swedish love to get together and eat, drink and be merry for the whole day. It’s common to have a julbord (which translates to “Christmas table”), a buffet-style spread of cold and hot dishes for guests to pick at throughout the day. You can also normally find Lussebulle, a saffron-spiced sweet bun, for dessert. One of the strangest Christmas traditions from Sweden, however, is the Gävle Goat. An enormous goat made of straw has been erected in the city of Gävle since 1966, and every year residents try to burn the goat down before Christmas arrives. It’s been destroyed 37 times since the tradition started, and counting!
You’ll find no shortage of Christmas cheer in Spain, where everyone goes all out with food, family, friends and fiestas! Many Spanish families have their big Christmas feast on Christmas Eve before attending a midnight mass named after a rooster (yes, really). There are loads of unique regional traditions as well. In the Catalonia region, where Barcelona is located, families decorate a tree log with a face and hat. Called the Tió de Nadal, or “Christmas log,” this character from Catalan mythology produces gifts for children. And a few days later, on December 28, it’s tradition to play pranks on people for Holy Innocents’ Day, Spain’s version of April Fool’s Day.
You may have heard of a special festival known as Hanukkah. It typically is observed right around the Christmas season. But while Christmas is considered a Christian holiday, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates family, history, and identity. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights. It begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which could be anywhere from late November to late December. Hanukkah is a very special time of the year for Jewish people all around the world, and it is filled with rich history, traditions, and tasty food.
The story of Hanukkah dates back to the year 168 B.C.E. A religious figure named Judah Maccabee led a group of men to reclaim their Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrians who took over it. Judah and his men miraculously beat the Syrians, even though they were vastly outnumbered. After defeating the Syrians, the temple was successfully reclaimed and rededicated. Thus, the festival of Hanukkah was born. The word “Hanukkah” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to dedicate,” so all those that celebrate the holiday are reminded of Judah Maccabee, his men, and their rededication of the Holy Temple.
Lighting the menorah
According to tradition, immediately upon entering the Holy Temple, Judah Maccabee lit a special lamp called a menorah. The problem was, he could only find enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day. Yet somehow, the menorah miraculously remained lit for eight days. That’s why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and eight nights.
Jewish families today light their own menorahs to celebrate the miraculous story. Each menorah has eight branches—one for each day the legendary holy lamp was lit. On the first day of the festival, only one candle is lit. For each following day, an additional candle is lit, until the eighth day, when all eight candles are lit. During the lighting of the candles, blessings are recited or sang in Hebrew.
A dreidel is a spinning four-sided top that is used to play a game during the festival of Hanukkah. It features four Hebrew letters (one on each side) that spell out an acronym meaning “A Great Miracle Happened There.” To play the game, players begin by sitting in a circle and placing chocolate coins, buttons, or other small tokens in the middle. Then, each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel. Depending on which side the dreidel lands on, the player either loses coins or must put more in the middle. It’s all a game of chance, and it’s a lot of fun, too!
Delicious fried food
Just like many other festivals, Hanukkah is celebrated by preparing and eating tasty foods. Traditionally, food fried in oil is prepared and eaten throughout the festival. It’s a way to celebrate the oil which kept the legendary lamp lit for eight days in the Holy Temple. Favorite dishes include latkes, which are potato pancakes; sufganiyot, or deep-fried jelly-filled donuts; and loukoumades, which are mini honey-drizzled donuts.
The giving of gifts
Some Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah by giving gifts to one another. As a matter of fact, the gift giving aspect of Hanukkah began more recently, in the 20th century. Those who participate show they appreciate one other by giving each other presents such as special dreidels, menorahs, other traditional Jewish items, and even modern gifts such as electronics and toys.
When it comes to study abroad stories and advice, who better to hear from than our students who are currently abroad, living out the experience in real time? That’s why we’re excited to have 10 SAF Scholar Correspondents sharing their writing, photography, and video with us this Spring 2020.
SAF Correspondent Yue Shao from Xiamen University is reporting from UC Santa Barbara.
EVERYONE BEGAN TO PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS EARLY, AND THERE WAS A GREAT DEAL OF JOY EVERYWHERE.
I had an exam in Santa Maria, a small town about an hour's drive from Santa Barbara. It was dark by the time I came out of the building after my exam, but the streets were lined with people from the small town. Families were carrying stools along the side of the road, watching the Christmas parade. The parade was led by the town police, and each car had its own characteristics. Most of the cars were filled with women and children, who sung, danced and wished everyone a Merry Christmas. The children distributed their snacks, sweets and food to the people sitting by the road. What a great parade!
By the time I got back to Santa Barbara, the dining room in my apartment was covered with red tablecloths, pine branches and candles, all Christmas-like. My RA served as a waiter, complete in formal wear. We ate the complete typical American dinner, from the starters to the entrees, with drinks and dessert. It’s the best meal I've ever had in my apartment!
SAF Scholars and Alumni