This year has been a year of firsts around the world.
Many people welcomed new “playmates” like a dog or Nintendo console to lighten the days of the pandemic, and everyone adapted to changes in all realms of life.
In keeping with the new normal, how about we do something different to ring in the new year?
Can I entice you to sip feuerzangenbowle, a mulled wine drunk with rum-soaked sugarloaf as they do in Germany?
Or perhaps invite you to set up a Scottish table of buttery shortbread cookies to pair with a glass of whisky?
I think there is a lot to celebrate this year as we welcome a prosperous and safe 2021, simply because we are still alive and kicking.
Also, I imagine we are all travellers who failed to globetrot much of this year but I hope to bring some cheer with new year drinks around the world to get us through the final hours of 2020.
I invite you to “travel” one last time this year as we raise our Campari, caipirinha or sake to a healthy, happy and safe 2021.
• Based in Europe, Australia-born Michelle Tchea is the author of Chefs Collective and writes on food, wine and travel.
Can you steer away from vodka, Russia’s iconic drink, during the new year? Quite impossible.
While Russians do not need an excuse to drink their national spirit, it is usually consumed during special occasions: weddings, birthdays and, of course, during the new year.
Even though Russia will be one of the first countries to welcome 2021, the Jan 1 celebrations are secondary to the more traditional new year festivities on Jan 14, which follow the Orthodox calendar.
Food plays an integral role, with a zakuska table overflowing with caviar, dark bread, pickles and marinated mushrooms – along with vodka.
If vodka is not your vice, perhaps follow the example of other Russians by drinking champagne. But there is a twist – Russians write and burn their new year wishes, adding the sooty remains to champagne, before clinking their glasses at midnight.
Where Russians celebrate: In Moscow’s Red Square, watching the fireworks over St Basil’s Cathedral. Or in front of the Kremlin while listening to President Vladimir Putin give his new year’s speech, with vodka in hand.
How to say happy new year: S novym godom
Germany knows how to party – once the clock strikes midnight and the fireworks have started, Germans start munching on doughnuts called pfannkuchen which are filled with jam and sometimes liquor.
Apparently, if you are unlucky, you may find a mustard-filled one.
Sip feuerzangenbowle – a warm, spiced mulled wine made with cinnamon, cloves and orange peel – along with a rum-soaked cone-shaped sugar cube set on fire (above). That is for a bit of theatre – and it also intensifies the flavour of your new year drink.
As they sip the drink – which literally translates as “fire tong punch” – old-school revellers hold the fiery sugar cone.
Where Germans celebrate: Fireworks near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin or, my favourite, anywhere on the Rhine River.
How to say happy new year: Frohes neues Jahr
New year celebrations are seen as a family affair, with a trip on the eve to a local shrine to pray for good fortune for the year ahead.
Like many things in Japan, food is involved. During the three-day new year celebrations, there is a lot of drinking and eating, starting on the eve with a hearty bowl of buckwheat noodles called toshikoshi soba, which loosely translates to “year-crossing noodles”.
Sake is the ceremonial drink of choice during Shogatsu (New Year), but not just any rice wine will do. O-toso (above), a sake with medicinal ingredients, is shared within the family to expel bad fortune from the previous year, as well as to promote good health and fortune for the new year.
Where Japanese celebrate: In the Japanese capital, near Tokyo Tower to see the fireworks. In Kyoto, at the Umenomiya Shrine, which is known as a “sake shrine” and offers free sake on the eve.
How to say happy new year: Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu
The new year in Scotland involves bonfires, sharing of sweets and a wee dram of whisky (above).
The celebrations of “Hogmanay”, as the new year is called, come from the Viking ancestors. Many believe the party is as long as three days because Christmas was banned from the end of the 17th century until the 1950s, so New Year’s Eve became a great excuse for locals to revel in good food and booze.
Customary new year celebrations will see one and all holding hands with new and old friends and singing Auld Lang Syne, which was composed by Scottish poet Robert Burns.
And then family and friends gather over Scottish treats like buttery shortbread biscuits and a fruit-and-nut cake known as black bun, while getting into some mischief with a bottle of locally produced whisky to ring in the joyous new year.
Where the Scots celebrate: The coastal town of Stonehaven for the ultimate fire ceremony with more than 60 fireball swingers and lots of people in costume.
How to say happy new year: Haud Hogmanay
Rather than reaching for any old champagne, why not go for a Spanish cava (above)?
The sparkling white wine is made with local grapes such as Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. It is believed to bring good fortune for the new year if you drop a coin or golden ring in your glass and drink at the stroke of midnight – but be sure to leave the trinket in the glass.
Before you get too tipsy, follow tradition in Spain with 12 grapes. Spaniards believe that luck and wealth will be with you if you eat a grape for every month of good fortune.
To signify a bounty of prosperity, lentil soup is served alongside a pork dish like cotechino, a spicy pork sausage.
Where Spaniards celebrate: Any spot where there is a clock. Puerta del Sol, the central square in Madrid, is a great place to eat grapes and watch the fireworks.
How to say happy new year: Feliz ano nuevo
Just like Spain, Mexicans eat a grape to celebrate the new year but they will also make a wish.
To ramp up luck, Mexicans eat a sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes. It is baked with a coin and, if you are lucky enough to find it, you will have a great year ahead.
But for imbibers, nothing says new year more than a warm tequila punch known as ponche Navideno (above), to remind you of great times in Mexico.
The drink is fruity and fresh, with ingredients that include tamarind, prunes, hibiscus, cinnamon and piloncillo, a sweetener.
Where Mexicans celebrate: In Mexico City near the main square Zocalo, and watching the fireworks near Angel de la Independencia.
How to say happy new year: Feliz ano nuevo