If You Are In Latin America For The Holidays, Here Are The Best Places To Celebrate New Year’s
If you’ve ever celebrated New Year’s Eve, you know that it can get pretty loco, no matter where you are in the world! But while the U.S. is all champagne, loud dance music, twinkly lights, and wild parties, Latin America’s New Year’s looks different. In many different ways! Depending on where you are, you might be stuffing lentils in your pockets, wearing color-coded underwear, or burning elaborate dolls that resemble celebrities and wicked politicians. Latin America is a beautifully diverse region of the globe, and each country offers its own characteristic approach to ringing in the next solar cycle. To help narrow things down a little, we’ve gathered some of the most unique traditions that prove Latin America is a stellar place to celebrate El Año Nuevo.
All Over Mexico
Like many Spanish-speaking countries, New Year’s Eve in Mexico usually starts out with a family dinner. People gather with their closest peeps to eat a traditional meal with mole, tamales, bacalao, or lentils (depending on where they are—each region is pretty distinct, and Mexico is a huge country!). Once they’re good and fed, folks enjoy each other’s company until the clock strikes midnight—but at this pivotal moment, you better have your 12 lucky grapes on hand! Once they’ve made their 12 wishes, Mexicans step out into the night, mingling among outdoor fiestas in all the major plazas. Fireworks illuminate the dark sky for hours and hours. It’s a super vibrant setting to indulge in some of life’s greatest pleasures: friends, family, food, and drink!
Panama City, Panama
With gorgeous beaches, endless fireworks, and temperate tropical temperatures, Panama City is the ideal New Year’s destination (especially if you’re escaping frigid weather farther north!). The people of Panama sure know how to party—whether on the sandy shores of those gorgeous beaches, in vibrant clubs, discotheques, bars, or even on the street, there is sure to be a raging fiesta everywhere you turn. In Panama, people create life-sized out of old clothes, which are meant to represent the past year. At midnight, the makers of these dolls burn them in a symbolic display of the whole “out with the old, in with the new” idea. Often, folks get really creative with their muñecos, crafting effigies that resemble political figures or celebrities. Talk about a fun, fiery way to say farewell to all of last year’s worst moments!
All Over Ecuador
In Ecuador, people also know how to throw a good party. Ecuadorians also burn effigies that resemble Panama’s muñecos, but here a “muñeco” is known as an “año viejo.” But the mythology of the año viejo is a little more complex in Ecuador: along with the año viejos come las viudas, dudes who dress in drag and pretend to be the burned dolls’ widowed wives. These men—decked out in tight minifaldas, pantyhose, low-cut tops, and wigs—mill through the streets, asking for money to help support their now-fatherless families. It’s humorous, theatrical, and colorful: the perfect recipe for an entertaining eve!
No matter where you are in the world, New Years isn’t New Years without fireworks—and the city of Valparaíso, Chile, has the largest, most grandiose New Years fireworks display in all of South America! (Back in 2007, this display won the Guinness World Records for setting off 16,000 fireworks.) If you’re a fan of serious skybound sparkles, this seaside city will absolutely dazzle you. Plus, it’s super accessible if you’re staying in the capital city of Santiago, which is also famous for its lively New Years fiesta culture.
Peru is known around the world for its impeccable approach to cuisine, and if you consider yourself a foodie of any sort, Cuzco is the place to be. Replete with restaurants overlooking the Plaza de Armas, it’s a beautiful setting in which to indulge all the delicacies the country has to offer—while still engaging with local traditions. As thousands of locals (and, inevitably, tourists) all gather in the Plaza, waiting for the impressive midnight fireworks display, you can enjoy a wide array of traditional and contemporary Peruvian dishes, ringing in the New Year with a delicious, nourishing meal.
On the afternoon New Year’s Eve, people in Montevideo gather in the Mercado del Puerto to celebrate in a really effervescent way—by literally pouring bottles of cider all over each other. And at the end of the workday, employees shred their calendar from the last year, tossing them out the windows like confetti. With drumlines, dancing, and generally high energy, the New Year’s celebrations begin early, ultimately culminating in lots of fireworks, bustling parties, and incredible dinners. Uruguayans normally eat lamb, lechon, or salmon on New Year’s, and you’re bound to find yourself an excellent feast in one of the many fine restaurants throughout the capital city.