Some traditions are similar to the rest of the western world, while other customs are typically local and owe their origin to the many different ethnic groups that populate the country.
One of the most widespread traditions is to kiss your partner at the stroke of midnight. In reality, the custom wants you to kiss the person you are close to, even if it is a stranger, because the purpose is to drive away evil spirits and face the new year without them. It is a costume that has ancient origins and derives from the European peoples.
Another typical custom is to eat black-eyed peas: a tradition that brings good luck and prosperity for the year to come to anyone who eats them. The beans, in fact, represent the coins and eat so many gives hope to receive a lot of money in the following months.
In the United States, as in Europe, there is the custom of wearing colored underwear. Unlike in the European countries, however, where it is customary to wear red, in the States different colors can be chosen, depending on what you want: red for love, yellow for happiness, polka dots for good luck or green for good health.
Since 1904, one of the most famous and popular events is the one held in Times Square in New York to welcome the new year. Every year, 1 million people crowd the square, while millions more watch the event from the television. Every December 31st Times Square offers a big show for the countdown to midnight and thousands of cold but excited people wait for the ball drop which takes place at precisely midnight.
The wait is long and it’s usually very cold but those who wish to see it go to Times Square in the early afternoon to take a seat (or most probably stand), that is before the area is closed off by the police once maximum capacity is reached. Every year, on this night, millions of colored confetti coming down from the bright ball above Times Square decree the arrival of the New Year. The confetti are colorful messages of greetings written by people from all over the world and, throughout the year, tourists and locals alike can visit the Ball Drop Museum located in Times Square to write and post these messages for the next drop.
From 2016, the City introduced a new ‘celebration’ called the Good Riddance Day. This new tradition is celebrated on December 28th and the idea behind it is to destroy the bad memories of the year that just passed in a giant shredder located in Times Square. This time people need to write down negative memories and post them in the shredder to ‘get rid of them.’
But the famous location is just one of the many opportunities that the metropolis offers to celebrate the New Year's Eve in style and New Yorkers usually avoid Times Square on New Year’s Eve, considering the countdown ‘a thing for tourists.’ From hotel events to private parties, there are plenty of options to choose from to spend as best as possible the last night of the year.
In the Bronx, visitors to the New York Botanical Garden are able to admire the wonderful Holiday Train Show, a journey made by several trains that move around 150-scale representations of the icons of New York City , from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge.
And it’s precisely in Brooklyn that those who wish to enjoy the Ball Drop show away from the crowds of Times Square are able to do so on Coney Island. In fact, from the tower of the Parachute Jump in the popular fair, an illuminated smaller-scale sphere drops accompanied by a circus-like show while the restaurants and the waterfront attractions remain open for the occasion. Every January 1st, the bravest people can inaugurate the year with a swim in the ocean together with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. Swimming in the freezing cold water is a charity event in favor of an association that deals with children with terminal illnesses.
But the true heart of the celebrations in Brooklyn is Prospect Park, where midnight fireworks sponsored by the town hall illuminate the sky at midnight.
Meanwhile, in Central Park, the New York Road Runners Midnight Run is a tradition which starts at around 10 pm with music and dancing. At the stroke of midnight, the race starts in the park, accompanied by the city’s fireworks.
Down in Broadway, the theaters offer midnight shows with special champagne toasting before the beginning of the performance.