In all the years that I lived in New York City, home of one of the most famous New Year’s Eve parties in the world, I never had as much fun ringing in the new year there as I did the year we went to Antigua, Guatemala. Maybe it has something to do with the loss of magic from seeing the New Year’s Eve ball perched perpetually in Times Square, or maybe it has something to do with the parade controls around my Times Square office – but I think it mostly has to do with fireworks.
We arrived in Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage city located in Guatemala’s central highlands, in the waning hours of December 31, 2007. In those days, we lived in Chicago and were delighted to be leaving the cold, snowy Midwestern United States for balmy Central America.
After checking into our guesthouse, we took to the cobblestone streets. People of all ages were spilling out onto them, moving in laughing, cheerful packs, calling out to friends. There was a carnival-like atmosphere in the air: musicians were set up on nearly every corner, food vendors were plentiful, and people in masks threaded through the crowd.
We ducked into a small shop to purchase a pair of comically large beers, just like the ones we saw other revelers carrying.
As the clock neared midnight, the crowd began counting down. When we reached 2008, the sky lit up with fireworks and the streets were filled with a cacophony of hollers, horns, and well wishes.
The legacy of the fireworks stretched past New Year’s Eve. For days, the ground was littered with remnants of fireworks and there would periodically be small explosions as people set off forgotten fireworks.
It was a New Year’s Eve to remember, and one of the best I’ve ever had.
Image credit for fireworks picture: Beth and Anth