Ringing In The New Year In Scandinavia

This Tuesday when it is 4:00 in Minnesota they will be ringing in the New Year’s in Finland. At 5:00 Minnesota time Sweden, Denmark and Norway will ring in the new year. So if you decide to go to bed early you can always say you were celebrating on Nordic time.  Here are some New Year’s Eve traditions from these countries in case anyone questions your sincerity.

Photo credit: Lauri Rotko/Helsinki Marketing

Finland – Hyvää uutta vuotta

In Helsinki, Finland, the biggest celebration historically is at Helsinki Cathedral where the bells are rung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Due to construction the celebration in this year will be at the Senate Square. Tens of thousands of people meet at midnight for a spectacular fireworks display preceded by musical entertainment and dancing. In fact, New Year’s Eve is the only evening when fireworks are legal in Finland without a specific request.

According to the blog Her Finland some New Year’s traditions are very similar to other countries. Staying awake until midnight is almost a must and it is when children are allowed to stay up as late as they can.

The funny expression for staying up late in Finnish is “kukkua aamyöhön” which means “to cuckoo until the early hours.”

Sweden – Gott nytt år

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, people in most countries turn on the television to watch a fireworks display from their capital city. Swedes, however, tune in first to a screening of the 1969 British slapstick show Grevinnan och betjänten (Dinner for One / The Countess and the Butler), which is also broadcast in Denmark and Germany:

After that there is a live poetry reading from Skansen Museum in Stockholm. It’s usually Nyårsklockana, a Swedish translation of Tennyson’s Ring Out Wild Bells read by a famous actress or actor, followed by a choir performance, a series of live performances and, finally, an impressive fireworks display.

Denmark – Godt nytår

Pretty much every town and city in Denmark throws their biggest party on New Year’s Eve. Most of these parties begin early in the evening with the excitement growing as midnight approaches. Eating, drinking and dancing are the priorities. Danes tune in to an address from their queen at 6pm, live from one of her palaces, which is followed at 7:15pm by a more politically-centred broadcast from the prime minister. Close friends and family gather early in the evening, so watch the broadcast together, but only after it has finished can they open the champagne. After the broadcast, toasts can be to anyone or anything, but glasses must be constantly replenished until midnight, when the television is switched back on for the countdown at Copenhagen’s Rådhus (City Hall).

Another very Danish tradition is to break dishes on the doorsteps of friends and neighbors on New Year’s Eve. The more broken dishes you find on your doorstep, the more friends you have.

Danes also like to literally jump into the new year, so when the countdown begins they find a chair or sofa, perch themselves on it and, on the stroke of midnight, jump off. Provided nobody has at this point broken their ankles, the evening is rounded off with guests joining arms to sing Vær Velkommen Herrens År (We Welcome the Lord’s Year):

Norway – Godt nyttår

Photo from US Embassy in Norway

Norway’s celebrations are a bit more low key than in neighboring countries. Fireworks are the main feature of the Norwegian New Year’s celebration and are often set off early in the evening the youngest children can also enjoy the celebration. Warm cocoa helps to keep the crowds warm and no child is without a sparkler.

Later in the evening the adults get their turn; dinner is generally eaten with friends and family and often consists of turkey or fish. Later the group ventures into the winter night shortly before the clock strikes twelve. Restrictions in recent years have curtailed the dangerous Norwegian habit of letting off rockets wherever they find themselves when midnight arrives, which used to make the otherwise orderly streets seem like an anarchic war zone for one day a year. Fine wine or champagne is an important part of the ritual to toast the arrival of the New Year.

Celebrate Twice

If you would to welcome in the New Year twice, travel to Tornio, Finland, which lies right next to the Swedish-Finnish river that divides the two countries and two time zones. Celebrate in Tornio first, then drive five minutes to Haparanda, Sweden, for another fireworks display and the ringing in of the New Year an hour later there. Celebrate twice and join the many parties on either side.