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New Year’s: Different ways to welcome 2023!

Special events to celebrate the New Year

· 5 min read

In our previous holiday blog, we talked about Christmas: Beyond Christmas Markets and we hope you enjoyed Nomad’s list of some unique Christmas traditions and events from around the world.

And then there's the New Year! Are you looking for the perfect way to welcome 2023? Don’t worry, we got your back. In this blog, Nomad gives you a list of special New Year’s events! We’re sure you will begin the year in a fantastic and unique way, whether you release lanterns in Thailand, make Japanese mochi, enjoy the sunrise in Tokyo, or swim at the chilly English Bay Beach. So, here is our list of ways to start the new year differently:

  • Releasing lanterns at the Lanterns and Lights Festival
  • Making mochi in Japan
  • Enjoying the first sunrise at Jonanjima Seaside Park
  • Taking part in Polar Bear Swim

Release lanterns on New Year’s Eve at Tha Phae Gate

Location: Chiang Mai

If you’re done with screaming crowds and bombastic music at the usual countdown parties, how about heading to Chiang Mai for a culturally traditional New Year’s Eve? Tha Phae Gate is the east entrance to the old city district and close to a number of temples and is the number one attraction on New Year's Eve in Chiang Mai. Also known as the Lanterns and Lights Festival, visitors can enjoy live music performances, an enjoyable fireworks display, and plenty of pubs and bars.

Source: https://www.asiahighlights.com/thailand/where-to-celebrate-new-year-eve
Source: https://www.asiahighlights.com/thailand/where-to-celebrate-new-year-eve

The road is closed off from traffic at about 5:30 p.m. so that the crowds can come and enjoy the end-of-the-year entertainment. As the New Year breaks, light a candle in your lantern and release it into the sky alongside hundreds of others.

Almost all temples, including ones with a foreigner entry fee, are free to enter on New Year’s Eve. You can buy small floating lanterns starting at 30 baht ($0.86 USD). These can be bought from vendors pretty much anywhere around Tha Phae Gate. Known as khom loi, they are made of lightweight paper with a small candle in the centre. Remember to bring your own lighter!

Source: https://www.theakyra.com/blog/must-see-landmarks-chiang-mai-thailand/
Source: https://www.theakyra.com/blog/must-see-landmarks-chiang-mai-thailand/

Location:  Moon Muang Road, Chiang Mai

Hours:  Open 24 hrs

Mochi making tradition in Japan (mochitsuki)

Making and eating mochi (moe-chee), a sweet rice treat, has been a beloved New Year's custom in Japan for more than a thousand years! Mochi has been a traditional New Year’s dish in Japan since at least the Heian era (794-11850). Eating mochi, which has the same pronunciation as the Japanese words for "to hold" and "to have" is thought to bring good fortune in the upcoming year.

Source: https://asahiimports.com/2014/01/04/mochitsuki-a-japanese-new-years-tradition/
Source: https://asahiimports.com/2014/01/04/mochitsuki-a-japanese-new-years-tradition/

On New Year’s Day in Japan, many Japanese households and communities will come together to take part in the custom of mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi. Mochitsuki symbolizes community and togetherness, as it is not something that can be done alone.

Across communities and temple grounds in Japan, it is a common sight to see people circling a giant wooden mortar and pounding the rice until it turns into a giant glutinous ball. If you are in Japan over the New Year, you might want to try visiting a nearby temple and have a go at making mochi!

If making mochi is not your type of fun, you should at least still have a real and fresh Japanese mochi on New Year’s Day! While enjoying your mochi, don’t get burned by data roaming. Don’t forget to get the Nomad data plan for your Japanese trip!

When: 1 January

Where: Nearly every community across Japan.

Admission: Free.

Catch the first sunrise at Jonanjima Seaside Park

Location: Tokyo

There is a Japanese custom of welcoming the New Year by celebrating Hatsu Hinode, or the first sunrise of the year. Tokyo Tower will be opening its doors to a limited number of visitors before regular business hours on 1st January 2023 for visitors to celebrate the first sunrise, and the tickets were snapped out as soon as they opened.

Source: https://taisa-photo.com/sunrise/
Source: https://taisa-photo.com/sunrise/

If you were intending to celebrate hatsuhinode but were not part of the lucky group of visitors who managed to get the tickets to the first sunrise event at Tokyo Tower, we recommend that you visit the Jonanjima Seaside Park. The Jonanjima Seaside Park is located at the outermost end of Jonanjima Island in Ota City, Tokyo – it is about half an hour away from central Tokyo, and is closer to Haneda.

The Jonanjima Seaside Park is usually a great community park for families and friends, with its campsites, dog run, and beach boardwalk. For aviation enthusiasts, the park’s close proximity to the Haneda airport also makes it a great place for plane spotting.

Address: 4-2-2, Jonanjima, Ota-ku, Tokyo, 140-0003, Japan

Nomad Tip: The campsite would not be open for the New Year, and you wouldn’t be able to spend the night at the Seaside Park the night before. The sunrise in Tokyo on January 1 2023 is expected to be at 6:50 am, so do plan your travel and transport accordingly!

Brave the cold at the Polar Bear Swim at English Bay Beach

Location: Vancouver

Every year, on the 1st of January, thousands of people gather at the English Bay Beach in Vancouver for the annual Polar Bear Swim – an event where participants take a swim in the open waters during winter.

Source: https://vancouver.ca/images/cov/content/polar-bear-swim.jpg
Source: https://vancouver.ca/images/cov/content/polar-bear-swim.jpg

Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim tradition began in 1920 when Peter Pantages and nine other swimmers welcomed the new year by plunging into the waters of English Bay.  Pre-COVID, the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim typically sees around 2,000 registered swimmers and tens of thousands of spectators. The event starts with a 100-yard race for those interested, and there would be prizes for the first three to complete the race.  After the race, a second horn will be sounded for all the other registered swimmers.

Registration usually starts at about 12:00 pm, and the swim will kick off at around 2:30 pm. Registration is free, but participants of the event are encouraged to bring a donation of cash or non-perishable food items for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

The event was brought online in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has just been announced that the physical event at English Bay Beach will be brought back in 2023. Be sure to pre-register for the event to receive your commemorative certificate after the event!

Nomad Tip: The Polar Bear Swim is not for everyone and the low temperatures might trigger intense bodily reactions. Don’t swim if you have heart issues or other underlying conditions – you can still be part of the fun watching and laughing at your families and friends from the beach!

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Enjoy your holiday trip without being burned by data roaming charges!