New Year’s Celebrations > around the world

At the stroke of midnight on Sunday night, tall flutes of sparkling champagne will be poured and sipped as people the world over toast the arrival of the New Year.

Kisses, hugs and well-wishes will be exchanged as colorful streamers and gold and silver confetti flutter in the air and fireworks illuminate the sky.

Starting from the east, the celebration of new beginnings will commence and continue till the clocks ring in 12 all over the globe. Different cultures usher in the New Year in different ways. Some gather to watch the famous glittering ball drop in New York City’s Times Square, while others will meet to watch the spectacular fireworks at Sydney harbor in Australia.

Although the celebrations and traditions may vary, the energy that’s sparked by New Year’s Eve will be present no matter where the party.

Beachfront in Brazil > More than 2 million people gather on candlelit Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a couple of hours before midnight on December 31.

Each will bring a bottle of champagne and most will wear white, says 24-year-old Shana Claudio, a public relations professional living in New York City. As a Brazilian native, no matter where Claudio has lived, each year she has gone back to her home country to ring in the New Year.

Although a few might deviate from white clothes, “mostly everyone wears white because people in Brazil are superstitious,” she explains. “They believe it will bring peace, happiness and health.”

Looking down from a balcony of the bordering Copacabana Palace hotel, the masses drawn together on the beach will look like “a sea of white.”

Underneath the white, it’s even traditional for women to wear different colored underwear depending on what they want in the coming year. For money, ladies choose yellow; for peace, white; and those longing for love will wear pink, Claudio says.

After a family dinner, people meet friends and walk together to Copacabana. Everyone usually gathers early because they know there will be hordes of people and nobody wants to miss the fireworks. The revelers sit on the beach drinking and talking or dancing while they wait.

People also buy white flowers from nearby sellers and step barefoot into the dark Atlantic, make a wish and throw the flowers into the ocean as an offering to Yemanja, goddess of the sea. And when the clock strikes midnight, everyone uncorks their bottles.

“You see the corks flying everywhere as white flowers wash up on the sand,” Claudio reminisces. “It’s really beautiful.”

After midnight and the fireworks, some take their shoes off, step into the water with their right foot and jump three waves for good luck, she says. Some also eat grapes and keep the seeds in their wallets for good luck, until they are replaced the following year.

The Rio New Year’s Eve is often a time spent with family; most parties don’t get started until after the clock strikes 12. People living in apartments bordering the beach will typically host parties and watch the fireworks from their apartment balconies. Others head to dance clubs after the beach.

“One of the big takeaways is that Rio’s not only this gorgeous metropolitan city, but there’s also tradition ingrained,” Claudio says. “Everyone has a lot of beliefs, and at the end of the day it’s about family and tradition, that’s what makes it really beautiful.”

Ushering In Shogatsu > Hours earlier, in the eastern half of the world, Tokyo will be one of the first cities to ring in the new year, literally. At midnight, crowds gather at the “watch-night bell” in Tokyo, which will be struck 108 times to rid people of the 108 earthly sins they are said to possess, according to Buddhist scriptures.

As the old year passes, the chimes and peals of temple bells reverberate all over Japan as millions of people line up to ring the bells to summon the New Year, says a 28-year-old Japan native who has been living in Manhattan for more than two years. The lines, she recalls, can be up to two hours long.

On the streets of Tokyo, people gather to watch dezomeshiki, a stunt-filled parade of the city’s firemen. Before calling in the New Year, the Japanese will spend the night of December 31, also called omisoka, watching Kohaku Uta Gassen, an annual televised music show.

Toward the end of the night, people eat buckwheat noodles called toshikoshi soba, also known as “year-crossing” noodles, for a prosperous and long life.

The New Year, or Shogatsu, is considered by many the most important holiday in Japan, and accordingly, preparations for the celebration begin weeks in advance: The Japanese clean their homes, put up rice-straw and bamboo decorations, send out New Year’s cards and hold bonenkai, or “year-forgetting,” parties.

On the first day of the year, many awake early to view the first sunrise, as it is traditionally considered the right way to start the year. During the day, people also visit temples and shrines to pray for a good and healthy year.

On the night of January 2, the Japanese go to sleep hoping to dream of Mt. Fuji, hawks or eggplants, as dreaming of these is considered an omen for a lucky year ahead. These are regarded as lucky because Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, hawks fly high, and eggplants were highly priced in ancient Japan, when the tradition was first enacted.

During this time, Japanese children receive otoshidama, or little envelopes with pocket money, and celebrate by flying kites, spinning wooden tops and playing cards.

Locals feast on special New Year’s dishes called osechi, consisting of yellow fish eggs marinated in a dashi, sake and soy-sauce broth; sweet black beans; and umami-rich kombu rolls stuffed with salmon and simmered in dashi, mirin, sugar and soy sauce.

Japanese businesses remain closed through January 3, and the “whole city is very quiet” for the first three days of the year, the native says. As the days are said to be representative of the year to come, people generally gather with family and friends and spend the time in tranquil celebration.

Wherever your New Year’s Eve is spent, it will be a memorable night of festivities with family and friends, in which everyone can rejoice in the year past and look forward to a new beginning. Happy New 2007 everyone!

Fashionably Festive

Whether you’re dressing the house or yourself, these are some trends to watch.

Want to see what’s stylish in holiday decor this year? Check out the fashion trends. Copper and bronze metallics stand out on jewelry, shoes, handbags, parkas and party dresses this season but also add subtle shine to table linens, gift wrap, holiday ornaments, napkin rings and dinnerware.

Purple? A color to watch for as well. Teal? Eye-catching on everything from corduroy jeans to peacock feather trees. Black and white? A combo you can’t miss.

The crossover of fashion to home is nothing new, of course, but as seasonal merchandise began arriving in stores earlier this fall, the connection became clear. Colors, and color combinations, are spilling over from fashion to home furnishings faster than ever these days.

For holiday decor, the biggest movement in ornaments, figures and decorations has been the unusual colors, going away from the traditional. The metals, copper, platinums and golds, have been a big mover, and this year copper is moving faster than the gold.

People also are decorating by color theme, and the combinations are not the standard green and red. Teal and silver, for example. And purple with golds, with touches of pinks, for an elegant look.

Fueling this trend is the fact that many people today opt for more than one tree in their home. They will do an elegant tree in the front window and then something with a country, woodland theme in the family room, or a collection tree. It could be a tree filled with an expanding collection of Santas, for example, or even one with birds and butterflies.

So whether you are dressing your buffet table, your Christmas tree or yourself, here are some popular trends we have observed:

Black and white > It’s become a major trend in home design recently, and it’s always a staple in fashion. Now, black and white makes a very bold statement for the holidays.

Festive accessories for the home include black-and-white ornaments, black-and-white holiday stationery, black-and-white fleece throws, and – from Old Navy – black-and-white wine boxes.

Fashion collections are full of the classic color combo as well, and not just for cocktail dresses. A holiday look from Liz Claiborne features a winter white silk charmeuse blouse worn with a long black velvet skirt and layers of black beads, including one strand accented with black ribbon. Like many fashionable beads this season, these are layered in various lengths, the longest extending down to the waist.

Then comes this news: In some circles, black is the new green when it comes to artificial Christmas trees. Sure, pink, purple, white and silver trees have shown up in recent years but, now, black is considered by some to be tres chic.  

And the trend started off American soil. “Last year, when the trendiest Americans were hanging their trees upside down, style-setters in Great Britain dumped dreams of a white Christmas and embraced the dark side black trees with black trunks and black branches, like Scotch pines scorched in a wildfire,” an American newspaper reported.

Closer to home, and, perhaps, earth, the Home Depot Direct catalog features a room furnished in black and off-white with silver accents. In the corner, a white Christmas tree is decorated with black, white and silver ornaments. Trend noted.

Metallics > Shimmering metallic dresses and accessories show up in all the fashion magazines, but copper, bronze, platinum and other antiquated metallic finishes offer an alternative to shiny gold and silver for the home as well.

Especially popular are metallic tree ornaments in copper and bronze, as well as gold luster dinnerware; matte silver trays; gold mesh wine bags; antique bronze napkin rings; woven brown and gold Christmas stockings, and more.

When it comes to fashion, InStyle magazine recommends pairing rich golden accessories, possible in mesh, glittery or matte finishes, with a racy red dress or a silky tank and black pants. And gold or silver ballet flats are a step above ordinary black.

What you don’t want to do, of course, is outshine the Christmas tree by wearing metallics head-to-toe.

Purple > When did all this happen? Shades ranging from soft lavender to deep plum add an unexpected twist to the same-old holiday palette. Lavender, in particular, looks great with white and silver, even if it is a knitted scarf worn with a winter white sweater and pants. Deep shades call for gold. And, for the home, purple looks refreshing with traditional greenery.

The December issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine showcases a 19th-century farmhouse near Toronto decorated for the holidays in shades of lavender.

Among the highlights: a mantel covered in fresh holiday greenery accented with pine cones and purple ornaments, with purple bows accenting a trio of black and white pictures hanging above. In the kitchen, a wreath is adorned with purple ornaments and purple ribbon; even the kitchen island is painted purple.

Shades of purple also show up in Martha Stewart Everyday collection at Kmart, where purple blown ornaments are displayed in a glass vessel and a purple berry wreath offers an alternative to traditional balsam. Who says tradition can’t be tweaked?

Trends > Recoloring The Holidays

Red And Green Get The Heave-Ho For A Change, As Bolder Hues Add A Sophisticated New Twist

This year, traditional red and green are on holiday decorating’s back shelf, replaced by elegant shades of shimmering bronze and copper, exotic mixes of burgundy and purple, mod splashes of hot pink and teal, trendy combinations of iced blue, lime, gold and orange and even black.

No question, Santa’s got a whole new bag of design tricks, says Angelo Surmelis, host of HGTV’s new show “24 Hour Design.” “In the days of neutral palettes and all white walls, the traditional Christmas red and green plaid worked. With the new emphasis on strong color in home design, that’s no longer the case,” says Surmelis, a Los Angeles interior designer. “People still want to dress up their homes at this time of the year, but they want holiday elements that complement their color scheme, not fight with it.”

Retailers have answered the demand with a range of traditional accessories fashioned in non-traditional colors. Trees, wreaths, ornaments, stockings, tableware and accessories are available in surprising hues, accented with new twists on old patterns and designs.

At T.J. Maxx stores, themes include “winter whimsy,” featuring bright colors and bold graphics; “exotic accents,” with opulent fabrics and deep, rich shades; and “elegant entertaining,” which layers crystal and silver onto a backdrop of winter white.

An elegantly slim tabletop tree fashioned of hot-pink ornaments highlights the cover of Pier 1’s Holiday Entertaining catalog, which also features three seasonal motifs, “chic chalet,” with hot pinks, deep reds and silver, polka dots and swirls; “scalandia,” featuring simple, spare designs in cool blues and lime greens; and “city of light,” a glam, eclectic, slightly retro mix of golds, browns and copper.

This year, along with more traditional holiday accents, online and catalog retailer Garnet Hill features a whimsical Funny Felt Tree, constructed of orange, green and yellow felt leaves, and a Bright Ornament Wreath and garland, each composed of glass balls in shades of gold, orange, teal and red.

Old Navy stocks its in-store Holiday Shop with striped and dotted glass ornaments in blues, silvers, limes and red.

“Depending on your space and your colors, try mixing silver and white, gold and cobalt blue, black and silver or harvest colors like rust, brown and gold,” advises Sonya Cosentini, T.J. Maxx home decorating spokeswoman. “The new palette will create a sophisticated look that complements your décor.”

Even black has become part of the holiday decor scene. Garnet Hill offers a black wool-felt tree skirt and table runner, both trimmed with vibrant embroidery and twinkling hand-stitched sequins. And black Christmas trees have made their way to these shores from Great Britain, where they were popular last season (www.christmastreeforme.com or www.seasondreams.com).

Whichever color scheme you choose, design experts say holiday must-haves include beaded or embroidered table runners in sumptuous fabrics such as velvet or damask, embroidered or beaded throw pillows in festive shades, and decorative elements such as crystal and silver. Anchor the look with fruits, pine cones, greens and masses of candles. When you’re done, step back, and add those all-important personal touches.

“Always include a touch of yourself and your family,” says Surmelis. “Be sure to tuck that pipe cleaner Santa or the ornament you made in second grade somewhere. No matter how elegant your setting is, you don’t want your house to look like a showroom. During the holidays, especially, you want it to look like home.”