It would be a travesty to talk about celebrations for the New Year in less than five weeks from the brutal assault on Bombay. But perhaps we can seek succour from the way Jerusalem ushers in the period spanning the last week of the year.
The vigil of the longest night on December 22 transcends to candle lit churches banishing the dark and seeking a new dawn of hope. Inevitably, the impending arrival of a new year is brought in differently in different parts of the world. The longest plan for ushering in the New Year was probably in the U K. Initiation of the Millennium plans started as early as 1993 when 19 pence were set aside from every pound bet on the National Lottery to create a Millennium Commission-funding mechanism.
In high spirits
Unlike most parts of Britain, where the occasion is usually celebrated in family-dominated intimate celebrations at home, Edinburgh takes to the streets through a ritualistic community-led outburst. Dominated by young people, ‘Hogmany’ represents the spirit of the Scots.
In Austria, there is a resurrection of the past as people arrive in horse drawn carriages, and glide into elegant ball rooms to waltz through the night. More recently, the music varies at the same venue in different halls to cater to a wider audience.
Abercrombie & Kent recreate the romance of Out of Africa in their tented camps in Masai Mara with game meat, wines and a medley of tribal dances preceding a hot air balloon ride at dawn, with a champagne breakfast to follow.
Celebrations on board a cruise ship are spectacular with a diversity of entertainment and cuisine which would make anyone wish that the night should never end. One way of extending the experience has been to take a west-bound flight from a country like Japan.
Few places can surpass the glitz and glamour of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Contrary to popular perception, less than 25 per cent of the revenue of Vegas is from gambling even though it is an important magnet. Beirut used to have a similar reputation, and now Dubai seems to be vying for this kind of branding.
Calcutta used to draw visitors from the rest of India for the festive season.Oldtimers would get nostalgic about the music of Louis Banks, Braz Gonzalves and Pam Crain or the gyrations of Luscious Lola. Not too long ago, Delhites where condemned to Doordarshan and daaru in DDA flats.
The hangover of this still continues with over five lakh applicants for just 5500 apartments. Among my most memorable ways of ushering in the New Year has been in the tranquility of Luang Prabang in Laos, amidst the rose-tinted ruins of Petra in Jordan, and listening to the desert musicians of Rajasthan.