Everyone should spend New Year’s Eve in Scandinavia at least once. The cold crisp air, and the lingering of Christmas lights twinkling in the dark make the frozen North an enchanting place to countdown to New Year’s (and since Scandinavia is known as a nature and health hub, it’s probably a good place to kick-start your new year’s resolutions!)
Sometimes visitors to Scandinavia have difficulties distinguishing between the Scandic countries, owing to their many shared cultural and linguistic similarities. On New Year’s you can spot these although each country still has their distinct traditions too.
All across Scandinavian, they love their New Year fireworks as much as most countries do (actually, now that we’re thinking about it, where does the ‘fireworks at New Year’ tradition come from?!), and in most cities across the region you will be able to venture out into the cold night and watch the sky sparkle and explode with colour at midnight. In fact, the locals love getting out into the fresh air for New Year’s and will certainly not stay copped up inside for the evening just because of the cold. Join the fun, but just make sure you dress up warmly, as your beer-jackets won’t really do the trick when the temperatures are well into the minuses! Just remember that there is a saying in the north: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes! So rug up!
In Finland, Helsinki’s Senate Square is where all the firework action will be, and it will certainly be a sight to see, especially against the backdrop of one of the most magnificent settings in the capital. In Sweden, it’s actually Gothenburg, the second largest city, where the best firework action is considered to be. Head down to the river for a true visual feast, or to Götaplatsen which is known for it’s wild and friendly festivities. In Stockholm, one of the biggest events of the early evening is concert at Storkyrkan in Gamla Stan and at midnight the big tradition is the reading of Tennyson’s ‘Ring out Wilds Bells’ at the Skansen. In Oslo you’ll want to head to the Town Hall and in Copenhagen the Town Hall is also where all the action will be, although it has big competition with Tivoli. Be careful though because even though the setting off fireworks in banned in many public spots, at the peak of merriment the locals can often forget this and set of fireworks haphazardly around the adjoining streets.
One quite big distinction between the Scandic countries at New year is that in Norway the focus is on spending the evening with family. In Finland and Sweden however, it is mainly spent with friends (since Christmas was dominated by family and thus NYE is a chance to get away from Uncle Bob’s appalling jokes and awkward conversation!) and many will hold big parties and invite all their friends to celebrate with them. In Denmark, it’s a bit of both. Interestingly, Denmark has quite the set of rituals to follow before the clock strikes midnight. The Queen’s televised speech to the nation earlier in the evening is something that most people will watch, and many will cluster around Amalienborg to watch the Royal Guard Parade. After that the jokes begin, and there is a bit of a Halloween theme as the Danes play pranks on their neighbours and friends, coating trees in toilet paper and smashing china plates on doorsteps! Norway also has a slight Halloween twist on New Years! In Finland, one of the best traditions of the evening is fortune telling! To celebrate the general theme of new opportunities in the new year, the Finns try to predict the future by interpreting shapes formed by molten tin. Of course, the shapes and their fortunes are always positive and you are bound to have a great coming year!
Food is also a pretty important component of New Years, alongside the warming (both physically and metaphorically) beverages consumed. Each country has their own set of dishes that are traditional New Year’s fodder! In Sweden’s Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons frestelse) is a solid favourite. Also popular at the Christmas table, this is a creamy potato dish which takes most of its flavour from cheese and anchovies. It’s delicious, even if its description sounds a little dubious! It’s also super popular in Finland, although there it is called Janssoninkiusaus. Cold cuts are also popular in Finland at this time of year, and so you’ll probably find offerings of cold-smoked reindeer and roast beef all around. In Demark cod is the favourite dish of the evening, but this should also be accompanied by a marzipan ring cake (Kransekage), which is so delicious that it will have any marzipan lover begging for seconds (and thirds, and fourths). In Norway, rice pudding is a favourite treat to see in the new year, and similar to a Christmas plum pudding, they bake it with a hidden silver penny. The idea is that the person who gets the silver penny in their helping will have fantastic luck for the coming year.
After the New Year’s countdown, for those wanting to extend the festivities into the early hours, all across Scandinavia you will be able to find clubs, restaurants and bars that will keep the party going. Make sure you have a look at what’s on offer and book a place, as these parties can get pretty busy. If you’re really in the partying mood, you can even enjoy double New Year! The towns of Haparandra in Sweden and Tornio in Finland and only 5 minutes drive from each other, but they are in different timezones, so celebrate an hour apart. So, you can celebrate first time around in Finland and then an hour later celebrate all over again in Sweden!
We absolutely recommend that you spend New Year’s Eve at least once in your lifetime in Scandinavia. It’ll be something you remember forever! If you need a good outdoors activity to help you recover the next day, our tours run across our Scandinavian cities on the 1st of January! Finally, you’ll need to be able to wish everyone around you a Happy New Year when the clock strikes midnight and we’ve got you covered for that too!
How to wish people a Happy New Year in Scandinavia. These are the sayings:
Finnish: Hyvää uutta vuotta!
Swedish: Gott nytt år!
Danish: Godt nytår
Norwegian: Godt nytt år
On our blog you will find travel tips and inspiration across our destinations. You'll find anything from food and drink recommendations to must-see attractions, hidden gems and seasonal events.