New Year’s Eve is upon us – don your sparkliest outfit and get ready for the countdown! Or, pack yourself off to one of these Scouting nations for some global celebrations.
Kiribati is a tiny island nation way out in the Pacific Ocean – somewhere in the vast stretch of water between Australia and Mexico. Other than being a pointless answer on TV gameshows, it is also the first country to hit midnight on New Year’s Eve and welcomes in the New Year with traditional singing and dancing. Despite only having a population of around 100,000 people (the same as Carlisle), Scouting has been going strong here since 1914.
Five hours after Kiribati, midnight strikes in Japan, accompanied by plates of Mochi – delicious sticky rice dumplings with sweet fillings. On January 1st, Japan wakes up to an early morning post delivery – it is traditional to send postcards to friends and family which arrive in time for the new year. Sometimes Scouts volunteer to help with the extra mail at this time of year – Scouting is huge in Japan, and over 33,000 Scouts from all over the world visited during the 2015 World Scout Jamboree.
Fast-forward eight hours later, and the New Year reaches Italy. In St. Mark’s Square, Venice, couples pour out of their fancy hotel rooms and into the big piazza under the stars. As they count down to the stroke of midnight, they lean in for a romantic kiss in the velvet darkness – as do a few thousand others. In 2008, more than 70,000 couples helped set the record for the world’s biggest kiss, and the tradition has continued ever since. Venice has two Scout Groups – no doubt they have achieved their Time On The Water activity badge.
An hour after Italy, Ghana rings in the New Year. New Year’s Eve has enormous religious significance for a country where the majority of the population are practicing Christians. At around 10pm, the churches fill with people, giving their thanks the passing of the year. The service continues through until 2am – at which point the congregation is free to go and party. Scouting has existed in Ghana for over 100 years, and Ghana’s Scouting alumni have gone on to hold many prominent political positions.
Five hours pass, and midnight arrives in Ecuador. Throughout the previous days, the population has been busy constructing effigies of prominent figures – stuffing old clothes with straw, and attaching masks which they make or buy. At the stroke of midnight, the effigies are thrown onto huge bonfires, to symbolise the ending of the old year and leaving behind the bad memories of the past. Scouting in Ecuador is taken very seriously – often the Scouts aid emergency services after earthquakes, which frequently rattle the country.
12 hours after Kiribati saw in the New Year, on the other side of the International Date Line, Hawaii welcomes midnight to its shores. This tropical American state is always warm on New Year’s Eve, and as such attracts tourists from all over the world. Enormous firework displays from the beach side hotels and resorts light up the skies. And there’s no hangover that a wander on a perfect sandy beach couldn’t cure on New Year’s Day. Scouting in Hawaii may be linked to the Boy Scouts of America, but it has its own strong cultural traditions, including the Hawaiiana Award, which encourages Scouts to understand more about the history of native Hawaiians.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? Whether you’re staying in or going out, we wish you a happy and healthy 2017!