Travel disruptions put a damper on holiday celebrations : NPR


NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to David Slotnick, senior aviation business reporter at the travel website The Points Guy, about COVID-related staffing that has led to thousands of flight cancellations.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So I was on a lot of airplanes over the holidays. And yes, it was super crowded in those airports. But my family and I actually didn’t have any issues with delays or cancellations. However, a lot of people did and still are. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Hundreds more are already on the books for today and tomorrow. Now, some of this is because of winter storms. But airlines are blaming a lot of it on staff calling out sick with COVID.

David Slotnick is with us now. He’s the senior aviation business reporter for the travel website The Points Guy. David, thanks for being here.

DAVID SLOTNICK: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So it’s part of your job to talk to people traveling the friendly skies. What have you been hearing from passengers as of late?

SLOTNICK: Well, so it’s really twofold. It’s pretty funny because a lot of people have had experiences like what you just described. I did, certainly, traveling over the Christmas holiday. So for some people, they’re a little confused about why there’s been so much fuss because their flights have gone without a hitch. On the other hand, I’ve been hearing from people who have had flights delayed for hours, days, even a week.

MARTIN: Oh, gosh.

SLOTNICK: People have been stranded. People have had a lot of trouble getting home. And there have been people who’ve been rescheduled by the airlines and just seen flights canceled one after another – every day just cascading. So it’s been a bad situation for sure for the people who’ve been affected.

MARTIN: Right. And for anyone who’s ever gone through this, you get a flight canceled, and they say you got to call (laughter) to get it rescheduled. That is a nightmare – trying to get an actual human who can help you on the phone.

SLOTNICK: It is definitely a challenge. The good news is that there’s a lot of this that you can do yourself these days. A lot of the times when our flight’s canceled, you’re rebooked automatically. And if it’s not a flight that you like, you can change it within the app or on the website yourself. But there are some times that you need to get through to a human. I have a coworker who called one of the airlines and cited an 11-hour wait time…

MARTIN: Oh.

SLOTNICK: …As she was trying to get home from a wedding this week.

MARTIN: Oh, my…

SLOTNICK: So…

MARTIN: That’s…

SLOTNICK: …Definitely not ideal.

MARTIN: Yeah. So, I mean, how much of your job is predictive? Like, what are you hearing from airlines about how long these disruptions will go on? I mean, they do have a follow-on effect, right? It’s hard to catch up once these cancellations start.

SLOTNICK: Yeah, absolutely. So now that we’re past the worst of the holiday week, I think that looking back, this really was more of a perfect storm than we even realized at the time. These weather storm – these winter storms just hit different hubs around the country – all pretty major hubs – Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Detroit. And it just created a mess that was on top of the people who’ve been calling out sick with COVID as the omicron cases have surged around the country. And this was all during the busiest travel week of the year.

So the situation now is a little bit different. Demand plummets. This is usually the very low season for airlines. There’s, in a perfect world, more business travel for them. That’s happening a little bit less as offices have pushed back reopenings again. So the good news there is that there’s more room for airlines to negotiate. There’s more of an ability for them to maybe combine flights or cancel flights proactively and then reschedule people just in advance. So that’s the good news. The bad news is I think this is really going to mirror the rest of the pandemic. So as it surges around the country, I think we’re going to keep seeing delays like this ebb and flow. I mean, pilots are just part of the general population. So…

MARTIN: Right.

SLOTNICK: You know, if people in one city are getting sick, then it makes sense the pilots who are there are also going to get sick.

MARTIN: I mean, we know that the industry writ large – the airline industry – has just been ransacked by the pandemic. Airline CEOs told Congress last month that they’re having trouble hiring enough employees. The flight attendants union says employees aren’t as eager to take on overtime. United and Spirit Airlines just decided to offer more pay to onboard staff. Is that kind of incentive going to help?

SLOTNICK: It definitely helps. It just may not be enough in the short term. A lot of people are – I mean, they’re tired. It’s the same as any other labor market – people who’ve been working under these conditions, which are difficult at best, for the last two years. And I think it’s just, you know, a lot of burnout, just like we’re seeing in other sectors.

MARTIN: Senior aviation business reporter David Slotnick with The Points Guy.

Hey, David, we appreciate your time and context. Thanks.

SLOTNICK: Thanks so much for having me.

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U.S. rings in New Year with Covid surge, scaled back celebrations and travel woes


As the United States prepared to ring in 2022, the nation has set yet another record for daily coronavirus cases, New Year’s Eve celebrations were scaled back and travel plans were disrupted because of the pandemic. 

The U.S. marked a record 584,545 new coronavirus cases Thursday in a week when the country broke new case records for three days straight, according to an NBC News data analysis. On Thursday, the 7-day rolling average of new daily coronavirus cases was a record 342,768, the third day in a row of a record seven-day average.

Before this week, the highest 7-day average was Jan. 11, 2021 at 257,583.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the omicron variant accounted for 58.6 percent of all Covid cases in the country in the week ending Dec. 25, while the delta variant accounted for 41.1 percent of cases.

By Friday afternoon, there were more than 1,400 flight cancellations within, into or out of the United States with more than 2,880 cancellations worldwide, according to the tracking website FlightAware. That compared with about 1,400 U.S. cancellations for all of Thursday, The Associated Press reported, adding total U.S. cancellations since Christmas Eve have totaled above 9,000.

Thousands of flights have been canceled amid ongoing holiday travel chaos, with airlines blaming the spread of the omicron variant and adverse weather conditions for the disruptions.

New York City, where there are a record number of Covid cases amid the nationwide surge, will welcome 2022 with a scaled-back celebration in Times Square after revelers were banned last year. 

Photos: Muted celebrations ring in new year around the world

“We want to show that we’re moving forward, and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose last day in office is Friday, said Thursday on the “TODAY” Show. The mayor cited the city’s high vaccination rate as a reason a restricted number of revelers in masks could witness the celebration this year. 

The city has capped attendance at 15,000, a far cry from the tens of thousands in the years before the pandemic that would mark the New Year in Times Square to watch the ball drop.

Meanwhile, officials in Atlanta canceled the ​​New Year’s Eve Peach Drop for a third year in a row.

“In consultation with public health officials, we have made the very difficult decision to cancel the Peach Drop,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement this week. “As positive Covid-19 cases rise, I encourage everyone to be safe, get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines.”

And San Francisco canceled this year’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show because of the wave of cases.

“While we are all understandably eager to ring in a new year with San Francisco’s customary New Year’s Eve fireworks show, we must remain vigilant in doing all we can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement this week. “By canceling the New Year’s Eve fireworks show we are reducing everyone’s exposure to Covid-19, while ensuring continuity of citywide public safety operations.



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Christmas Celebrations Continue in Bethlehem Despite Omicron Travel Ban


Despite a second year of travel restrictions because of COVID-19, the town of Bethlehem, the site of Jesus’ birth, is reviving its annual Christmas Eve celebration.

“Last year, our festival was virtual, but this year it will be face to face with popular participation,” Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman told the Associated Press.

On a typical Christmas, the biblical town is a popular destination for tourists from around the globe. An average of 3 million tourists come each year. Much smaller crowds attended the holiday celebrations in Bethlehem on Friday, accompanied by gloomy weather.

“It’s very strange,” said Kristel Elayyan, a Dutch woman married to a Palestinian, who came to Bethlehem from Jerusalem. “If it’s one year, it’s an interesting experience,” she told Agence France-Presse. “But because this is the second year and we don’t know what is going to come in the future, it’s a huge loss for the people here.”

Events included traditional marching band parades and street celebrations. Scout bands with drums and flags gathered in Manger Square to celebrate the holiday.

While celebrations are scaled down this year, Salman is hopeful that 2021’s festivities will exceed last year’s, when residents were forced to celebrate inside their homes because of lockdown restrictions, the AP reported.

Israel’s ban on nearly all incoming air traffic, which has lasted two years, continues to prevent tourists from entering the occupied West Bank, and subsequently, the historic town.

The travel ban to curb the spread of COVID-19 was lifted in November to allow foreign tourists in but was soon reimposed with the emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant. Coinciding with the holiday season, the disease’s newest strain has hampered Christmas celebrations.

Without the flood of tourists, local authorities hoped that the Holy Land’s small Christian community would keep the holiday spirit alive.

Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the top Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land, celebrated a midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born.

“Compared to last year’s Christmas, the participation is much greater, and this is an encouraging sign,” he told the masked congregation, but regretted the absence of foreign worshippers because of the pandemic.

“We pray for them and at the same time ask for their prayers, so that all this may end soon and that the city of Bethlehem may once again be full of pilgrims,” he said, according to AFP.



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Warily eyeing omicron, Christmas revelers curb celebrations


People queue up to travel on trains at London St Pancras International rail station, in London, the Eurostar hub to travel to European countries including France, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. After the U.K. recorded its highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, France announced Thursday that it would tighten entry rules for those coming from Britain. Hours later, the country set another record, with a further 88,376 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, almost 10,000 more than the day before. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

People queue up to travel on trains at London St Pancras International rail station, in London, the Eurostar hub to travel to European countries including France, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. After the U.K. recorded its highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, France announced Thursday that it would tighten entry rules for those coming from Britain. Hours later, the country set another record, with a further 88,376 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, almost 10,000 more than the day before. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

AP

Christmas revelers across Europe are lying low and changing plans as new restrictions and fears about the omicron variant of the coronavirus persuade many to stay home, magnifying concerns about a second lost holiday season for airlines, restaurants and shops already battered by the pandemic.

Scotland and Wales on Friday pledged millions of pounds for businesses hurt in Britain’s latest surge, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to do the same in England. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is holding talks with business representatives who have demanded more support, decrying a “lockdown by stealth” in which government officials recommend people stay home as much as possible without officially imposing the strict rules of past shutdowns.

Several European countries are warily watching the spread of omicron. On Friday, the Danish government proposed closing theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums in response to a rise in virus cases that experts said was faster than expected.

But nowhere is the increase more dramatic than in Britain, which reported record numbers of infections, partially driven by the new variant, twice this week.

Businesses ranging from vacation providers to pubs and theaters are reporting a wave of booking cancellations as customers err on the side of caution rather than risk being infected and missing holiday celebrations with friends and families. Experts say omicron appears more contagious, but little else is known — and the uncertainty itself is enough to cause many to change their plans.

Even Britain’s Christmas pantos — beloved holiday performances where audiences take part in raucous evenings by shouting warnings to the cast — are under threat. The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, western England, has had to refund 180,000 pounds ($240,000) in ticket sales after customers decided not to go to shows. It was also forced to cancel 12 performances of “Beauty and the Beast” because half the cast tested positive.

“There’s been a real dent of confidence,’’ Executive Director Joanna Reid told the BBC.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Friday that financial assistance for business must come from the central government because it has the borrowing power to finance the scale of aid that is needed.

“Business is already bleeding, every 24 hours counts,” Sturgeon said during a briefing in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. “There is no time to waste.”

The already beleaguered travel and tourism industry is being particularly hammered, as restrictions to curb the spread of omicron are adding to the gloom during the crucial holiday season.

Eurostar, which operates trains across the English Channel, sold out of tickets to France on Friday before new rules on travel to and from Britain went into effect. Long lines snaked around the parking lot at the Eurotunnel, which runs the tunnel that drivers use to cross the water.

Amanda Wheelock, 29, a grad student at the University of Michigan, canceled a trip to France with her partner as cases spiked there. Even though the surge isn’t necessarily due to omicron, the uncertainty about the new variant, and a new requirement that all U.S. travelers have to test negative before flying back to the U.S., made her worry that the trip would be more stressful than fun.

Instead, she’s traveling to the Anchorage, Alaska, area to see friends. She feared that she would spend much of her trip trying to avoid getting infected — thus not able to take full advantage of being in France.

“A vacation with a lot of stress probably not a great vacation,” said Wheelock, who is from Arvada, Colorado.

She is not alone. The Advantage Travel Group, which represents about 350 U.K. travel agents, said business had fallen by 40% in mid-December from a month earlier. Those numbers, including flights, cruise bookings and package holidays, add to the travel industry’s existing slump, which had already seen business fall by two-thirds since the pandemic began, CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said.

“Our members are dealing with customers who are really nervous about traveling now,” she said “They’re really nervous about bookings for the New Year because they fear that there’s a risk that the government will make more knee-jerk reactions.”

Amid Britain’s dramatic surge, Sunak met with representatives of the hospitality sector on Thursday to hear their concerns about how they would make it through another season with slashed revenue.

Travel trade association Abta argued it deserved the same attention from the government. It demanded an “urgent meeting” with Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to discuss the sector’s “current financial situation and its pressing need for financial support.”

“The government has recognized the plight of the U.K. hospitality sector, with trade down by 40% in December,” chief executive Mark Tanzer said. “But at the same time, the travel industry, where income has been down by 78% this year, and further impacted by omicron restrictions since late November, continues to be ignored.”

___

Associated Press writer Mae Anderson in New York contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.





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7 New England Towns That Put On The Best Christmas Celebrations


Twinkling lights reflect softly falling snow, setting the stage for a New England-style white Christmas. You will find small-town squares with pine trees festively draped in thousands of lights, fragrant boughs, wreaths adorned with velvety ribbons and trinkets, and the aroma of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg waft through the air. New England towns’ Christmas celebrations are steeped in tradition from decades of coming together to say goodbye to the past year and prepare for the arrival of the promising New Year. These charming towns put on the best Christmas celebrations that are sure to enhance your Christmas spirit.

Whether you desire an old-fashioned celebration; a ride through a riotous collection of colorful lights; elaborately decorated historic mansions; or a scenic, family-friendly locomotive ride, you will love visiting these New England towns. These holiday season standouts are listed in no particular order.

1. Kennebunkport, Maine

The Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport is scheduled for December 2–12. This 40th anniversary holiday celebration offers guests 10 days of fun, entertaining activities. The celebratory kickoff begins with the annual Dock Square Tree Lighting on December 3.

Other holiday happenings during the celebration include Cape Porpoise lobster trap tree lighting, a hat parade, Christmas caroling at the Franciscan monastery, Santa’s arrival by lobster boat, and Pooch Parade. The event is always a fun and festive time.

Pro Tip: A charming seafaring town, you can explore more about where to stay and what to see while you are visiting in our Best Things To Do in Kennebunkport guide.

Candle Light Stroll Under the Stars, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Photo Credit: David J. Murray / ClearEyePhoto.com

2. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Strawbery Banke Museum presents the Candlelight Stroll Under The Stars, a stunning outdoor lighting experience. Enjoy the illuminated exteriors of the museum’s historic buildings where designers have crafted a magical display in a gorgeous, twinkling wonderland. Stop by Strawbery Banke Museum on one of the first three Saturdays (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and Sundays (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) in December for a delightful holiday stroll.

On Saturday, December 4, the Illuminated Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting transforms coastal Portsmouth into a twinkling winter fairyland. The tree lighting ceremony in Market Square begins at 5:25 p.m. The parade begins at 6 p.m. and runs along sections of Islington Street.

From December 1 through December 19, The Historic Theater presents The Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Enjoying a theater production of this time-honored musical is a wonderful way to savor the Christmas season.

Pro Tip: Coastal New England road trips take on a frosty appeal in the winter. When you visit Portsmouth, consider a short drive up to Bangor or down to Boston for a different perspective of the Atlantic Ocean beaches.

Billings Farm Christmas Parlor.
Photo Credit: Billings Farm & Museum

3. Woodstock, Vermont

Experience Christmas at the Billings Farm where you can explore traditional Victorian decorations and traditions with friends and family. Demonstrations at the farm include candle dipping and gingerbread ornament making served up with traditional holiday stories. 

Christmas at the Farm is Saturday, December 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is fun for the whole family.

Wassail Weekend at Billings Farm in Woodstock runs from December 10 through the 12th. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and run throughout the day until 4 p.m. On Sunday, December 12, horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides are available (conditions permitting). Visit the Dairy Bar for a delicious cider donut and a mug of wassail, a hot mulled cider with spices. Wassailing is a charming English Yuletide tradition where neighbors gather with neighbors toasting a good cider apple harvest in the year to come.

Pro Tip: Visit our Best Things to do and see in Woodstock guide for great tips on where to stay and play in this lovely small town.

4. Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village will transport you to Christmas in colonial times. Stroll through the village and enjoy a crisp December evening as you ooh and ahh at the traditional holiday decorations adorning the village homes. Wander through the Christmas Tree Trail where you are surrounded by fragrant pines and twinkling lights. Immerse yourself in the spirit of days gone by with stories passed down from generation to generation, then hop aboard the horse-drawn carryall for a scenic winter ride around the village. Christmas by Candlelight is open beginning Friday, December 3, and running select nights through Thursday, December 30. Be sure to check the Old Sturbridge Village Calendar for specific days and times.

Pro Tip: Old Sturbridge Village is a unique living museum where you can dive deep into the early colonial life.

Patriots mascot in the tunnel of lights.
Photo Credit: Eric Adler / Kraft Sports + Entertainment

5. Foxborough, Massachusetts

Gillette Stadium in Foxborough is home to the New England Patriots. It is also home to the Magic of Lights, a drive-through lighting extravaganza. Running from November 13 through January 19, from 5 p.m. to 9:25 p.m., it is guaranteed to amp up your holiday spirit. Traverse the 200-foot-long light tunnel as it envelops you in a twinkling, wonderland environment. As you drive the 1-plus-mile course, you will encounter over 40 different scenes and tableaus of inspirational lighting displays. You will be dreaming of recreating these beauties in your own front yard … maybe next year.

Magic of Lights operates at many venues across New England.

Pro Tip: The cost for this event is per carload, so pack up all your friends and family in the SUV and head over to Foxborough for an inspirational lighting adventure.

Sparkiling lights at the Breakers.
Photo Credit: The Preservation Society of Newport

6. Newport, Rhode Island

The Gilded Age mansions in Newport are show-stopping at any time of year, but when they are decked out for Christmas, it is a holiday extravaganza. The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House are adorned with garlands, wreaths, trees, baubles, lights, and copious amounts of silver and gold. The luxurious, jaw-dropping decorations are on display beginning November 20; please check their events calendar for specific days and times.

The Sparkling Lights at the Breakers is a spectacular outdoor walking adventure that traverses The Breakers gardens. The easily navigable pathways provide beautiful lighting displays and tableaus at every turn. With nearly half of the mansion’s 13 acres twinkling brightly, you will be surprised and delighted at the ornate displays.

The Newport area mansions are spectacularly dressed in their Christmas trappings. Check our story on the Newport Mansions At Christmas for more information and stunning photos.

Pro Tip: Newport is a lovely spot for a weekend getaway, and we have some great ideas about where to stay, dine, and play that will make your planning easier.

Christmas Ornament.
Photo Credit: Billings Farm & Museum

7. Bethlehem, Connecticut

When you are craving a charming, old-fashioned New England Christmas, the Christmas Town Festival will transport you back to a simpler, family-focused Christmas celebration. For 2 days, December 3 and 4, the town is transformed into a celebration of seasonal joy and good cheer.

The mostly free events include a tree lighting, Christmas concerts, fire truck parade, crafters, scavenger hunt, Bell Concert, and Santa arriving on a fire truck.

Each year, a specially designed, unique town ornament is crafted in pewter and is available for sale. The style of these collectible ornaments has changed over the years, but the sentiment remains the same: Christmas is a time to celebrate friends and family. You can purchase ornaments from as far back as 1982, they will give your tree an old-fashioned colonial feel.

Pro Tip: Spending a quiet weekend in this charming small town will impart a sense of the American Dream where simply enjoying life is the key to happiness.

The Breakers Morning Room
The Breakers Morning Room (Photo Credit: The Preservation Society of Newport)

New England Christmas Train Rides

Christmas train rides are a wonderful way to experience a special adventure with the youngsters in your life. Across New England, train depots are gearing up for a North Pole-inspired ride. Copious amounts of hot cocoa are steaming, cookies are baking, stationery for letters to Santa is printed, and elf casting is nearly complete.

We have compiled a list of small towns that celebrate big time when it comes to visiting the North Pole by rail. A train ride through the local scenery is a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of the Christmas season.

The Essex Steam Train and River Boat in Essex, Connecticut, is a 90-minute train ride filled with sugar cookies, sing-a-longs, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Enjoy breakfast, pizza, or a sunset train ride with Santa on the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad in Unity, Maine.

The Polar Express Train Ride out of Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, brings the movie to life. Each car has entertaining, costumed conductors and wait staff creating an immersive experience. Wear your jammies and pack your camera for this exciting ride.

The Hobo and Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad offers the Santa Express Trains in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Enjoy the beautiful Winnipesaukee scenic views while meeting with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Another Polar Express Train Ride at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland, Maine, whisks guests off to the North Pole where they can see Santa prepping his sleigh for his Christmas deliveries.

Whether you love a down-home, small-town Christmas; a scenic train ride through the winter landscape; a bustling festival full of high energy; or a ride through a tunnel of lights, you will find many New England towns that put on wonderful Christmas celebrations. Set a date with your friends and family, get away from all the crazy preparation, and simply enjoy each other in the spirit of the season.



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Guide to holiday celebrations at theme parks






Guide to holiday celebrations at theme parks – The Points Guy
























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New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world: readers’ travel tips | Christmas and New Year holidays


Winning tip: When Jesus fixed my Jeep, Chile

Our all-girls group’s plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve while camping and stargazing in Chile’s eerie Atacama Desert almost went wrong. Thanks to Jesus, it all worked out. Our tight budget led us to rent a Jeep from a backstreet car-hire firm in San Pedro. Result – a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, a friendly group of locals led by the aptly named Jesus, who had some mechanical knowledge, were also heading out to the desert and stopped to help us. Result: a shared trip, wine, food, campfires and songs in English and Spanish under the mystical Atacama skies to see out and welcome in the year in a stunning setting and with great company.
Yasmin Cox

Cold night with hot music, New Orleans

The Rock’n’Bowl in New Orleans.
‘Overrun with revellers’: the Rock’n’Bowl in New Orleans. Photograph: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

One New Year’s Eve in the early 2000s, my partner and I were housesitting a friend’s shack in New Orleans. The temperature had plunged to -5C, remarkable for Nola. Totally unprepared for this unusual cold, we put on our onesie long johns and walked to Mid-City Lanes Rock‘n’Bowl. We rented a lane, ordered po’ boys (a Louisiana sandwich) and beers, bowled, and wandered downstairs to hear legendary local singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin (sadly no longer with us). Around 10pm, the Iguanas came onstage and the bowling lanes were overrun with revellers juggling food, drinks and kids while dancing to the Latin-tinged R&B groove music. New Year’s Eve, but just a normal night a Noo Or-lins.
Donna J Hall

Out with the old, Bologna

New Year’s Eve in Bologna.
New Year’s Eve in Bologna, when the burning of a large puppet is part of the festivities. Photograph: Getty Images

To see in 2019 we went to beautiful Bologna where there is a traditional burning of a huge effigy of a man – known as the vecchione (the old one) – in the square at midnight. This symbolises the discarding of all the bad things that happened in the old year and the welcoming in of the new. The night starts with dancing and music where people of all ages drink and enjoy life. As the clock struck 12 we hugged and the flames engulfed the wooden figure as confetti fell from the sky and balloons bounced over the crowd.
Louisa Guise

A Méri old evening, France

Wooden chalet in the mountains, Méribel, France.
Wooden chalet in the mountains, Méribel. Photograph: Nick Daly/Getty Images

In Méribel for New Year’s Eve, a couple from our chalet invites us to the local bar. We are a mixed bunch; some of us in snow boots, some dressed very fashionably. The champagne flows, glasses are raised, then raised again as the mellow sounds of a saxophonist flood the room. The fire crackles, while outside the crescent moon hangs amid twinkling stars; this is paradise. Later, we head to the village square where vin chaud is served by chalet staff as we watch expert skiers descend carrying lanterns while fireworks burst above them. The hour is upon us as we gather around a tree and welcome in the new year. Perfect.
Jean Broad

Wine and jive, Cape Town

Fireworks over Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.
Fireworks over Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. Photograph: Alamy

A sunset picnic on Table Mountain, washed down with silky-smooth Stellenbosch wines, was a great way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Cape Town at the dawn of the new millennium. As the clock ticked towards midnight, I took the cable car down to the V&A Waterfront, looking down as the mountain tops of the 12 Apostles cast their dramatic shadows over the brooding Atlantic Ocean. An all-night open-air disco carried on the fun, welcoming in the new year for a crowd of all ages and races, with the then 81-year-old Nelson Mandela appearing on the big screen from his nearby home, jiving away, to join in the celebrations.
Gonca Cox

Salsa, sea lions and sculptures in San Diego

San Diego: Darth Vader and a host of stormtroopers join the annual Balloon Parade.
San Diego: Darth Vader and a host of stormtroopers join the annual Balloon Parade. Photograph: Alamy

The welcome sunshine was not just a bonus for me, but also for the sea lions who were basking on the jetty. The Balloon Parade was a party open to everyone, and it was a friendly family atmosphere along with plenty of salsa moves. At sunset, stunning stone sculptures were silhouetted against the skyline. Standing on the boardwalk in Seaport Village was the perfect viewpoint for the midnight fireworks and their sparkling reflections in the sea. A great way to see in the new year – and all for free.
Vanessa Wright

I found Paradise, Ethiopia

The View Of Lake Abaya from Paradise Lodge
Looking out on Lake Abaya from Paradise Lodge. Photograph: Grant Rooney/Alamy

One year I spent 31 December at Paradise Lodge, overlooking Ethiopia’s Lake Chamo in the south-west of the country, where the individual tukuls (round huts) could be described as primitive or charmingly rustic, depending on your take. At the gala dinner we ate berbere-spiced wats (stews) and injera, a flatbread that reminded me of foam rubber in looks and taste. The music ranged from Amy Winehouse to traditional Ethiopian tunes, and a group of Indian visitors proved funky dancers whatever the beat. Midnight arrived, along with a huge cake, poppers, streamers and more dance music. The international partying continued until the early hours when I returned to what seemed like a palatial room.
Helen Jackson



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