Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Ringing in the New Year

Celebratory traditions from all over the nation


Voted as the best small town in North Carolina, Marion boasts one of the most impressive New Year’s Eve traditions—dropping a 6-foot gold nugget into a giant, 10-foot frosted doughnut—as part of their annual Gold Nugget Drop. The quirky tradition is inspired by the town’s gold mining past. Food and craft vendors set up stalls, and live music is provided all through the night, with the music hall hosting its own special New Year’s Eve tunes. The street party is not complete without its own scavenger hunt, costume contest, and annual New Year’s Eve road race—Resolution Run 5K, aimed toward encouraging residents to start the year toward a healthier lifestyle.


The ski resort town of Vail is another perfect, family-friendly town for celebrating the holidays. With its picturesque winter wonderland backdrop and stunning snow-capped mountains, Vail offers some of the most memorable fireworks and light shows. The annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade on Vail Mountain features ski instructors and locals forming a train, holding glow sticks, as they zigzag down Golden Peak, sending glowing ribbons behind them. This spectacle is shortly followed by an equally impressive fireworks display.


Oklahomans’ favorite way to kick-start their year is with a (loud) blast as they fire guns and cannons to ward off evil spirits and welcome the new year. The Fort Reno Christmas Guns event takes place every year at the Fort Reno Chapel and Parade Grounds and was adopted from a German tradition brought to America by immigrants. German and Italian prisoners of war built the chapel in 1944. Attendees receive hot chocolate as they sit together to listen to traditional German and American folk tales inspired by the town’s historic past.


The colonial town of Williamsburg is known as one of the first planned cities in America and dates at least as far back as 1699, when colonial leaders petitioned for it to become Virginia Colony’s new capital city. The town is home to some of America’s first colonial homes and is thus known worldwide as the premier center for the preservation and interpretation of American colonial history. Williamsburg hosts Hogmanay—Scottish for New Year’s Eve. During the late 16th century, Virginia had a growing influx of Scottish settlers that led to many Scottish traditions being incorporated into American culture. Hogmanay dates back to the Vikings and involved celebrating the winter solstice. In Williamsburg, locals celebrate the end of the year by taking part in singing, storytelling, and dining on fine food. It’s also a great time for some (early) spring cleaning—getting rid of the old and welcoming the coming year with a fresh start.


Every year, thousands of brave locals take the ultimate challenge—by plunging into the icy Atlantic Ocean at noon on New Year’s Day to commemorate the start of the year. Known as the Polar Plunge, the chilling festival is usually held at Tybee Pier and Pavilion but has been put on hold for the last two years. Due to the pandemic, the Tybee Post Theater invited all to instead join in virtually and take the plunge from anywhere they chose.


Alabamans in Mobile are famous for their annual New Year’s Eve Moon Pie Drop at midnight. Locals in this town are said to be the nation’s largest consumers of moon pies, so it’s no surprise that the town’s New Year’s Eve mascot is the 12-foot sweet dessert. The history goes back all the way to 1916, when it is believed that a hungry coal miner asked for a snack “as big as the moon”—hence the creation of the moon pie. To show their appreciation and welcome the new year, locals drop a giant, mechanical moon pie in downtown Mobile. Residents enjoy live music and eat plenty of food to their hearts’ content. The evening is brought to a close by fireworks above the Mobile River.


Many towns host New Year’s Eve ball drops, but in Panama City, locals drop 10,000 of them—all at once! Thousands attend this fun, family event to watch as the small beach balls come tumbling down in a flurry of colors. This event starts in the early evening, to allow children and families to attend without keeping their children out too late. At midnight, the city continues with its annual Pier Park beach ball drop, where the gigantic beach ball drops from the illuminated SkyWheel Ferris wheel. Many local bands attend to play music for audiences to enjoy.


The town of Prairie du Chien takes great pride in its fishing heritage—so much so that carps feature center stage in its annual Dropping of the Carp holiday event. The locals have celebrated this family-friendly event for the last 19 years. Originally, the festival involved lowering a 20-pound, real, frozen carp onto its throne in Lucky Park. Since 2019, the town has revised its tradition, moving the celebrations indoors. The event is now named Carp Fest, and celebrations still incorporate a predominantly children’s theme with coloring competitions, games, and singing. The frozen carp has been replaced with an artificial one, and everybody still gets the chance to kiss the carp at midnight for good luck—as per tradition!


As the clock strikes midnight, people all over the world celebrate the start of a new year. The locals in Fredericksburg, Texas, however, prefer to travel back in time with a 1940s-inspired celebration. Strutting in their best vintage outfits, they meet up at the Hangar Hotel—designed to resemble an actual World War II airplane hangar. Visitors enjoy showing off their swing dance moves to jazz performed by Bill Smallwood and the Lone Star Swing Orchestra. Winners from the costume contest receive prizes from the Hangar Hotel, the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, and the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. A portion of the proceeds is donated to United Service Organizations (USO) Fort Hood.

SOUTH CAROLINA (and Other Southern States)

If you live in the South, you will be no stranger to a bowl of steaming black-eyed peas laid over a bed of collard greens and onions. The black-eyed peas are associated with good luck, and collard greens with wealth. Southerners are also big fans of cornbread—which represents gold and often accompanies the main meal. In South Carolina, locals enjoy eating their own rendition of this classic New Year’s meal with some steamed, brothy rice. The rice and pea dish is known as Hoppin’ John and is reminiscent of African bean pilau. Residents believe that for the best chance of luck, one must eat exactly 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day!