Most of the planet is looking forward to Christmas and New Year's Eve, one of the most magical seasons of the year. Streets, central parks, and squares have already been transformed, and residents of metropolises and towns have immersed themselves in the fairy-tale atmosphere.
Children wait with bated breath for an answer to their letters to their respective magic gift givers, whether it be the American or Western European Santa Claus, the Russian Ded Moroz, the Finnish Joelupukki, the French Papa Noel, or the Georgian Tovlis Babua. Only a chocolate Advent calendar can soothe the agony of anticipation.
There are similar calendars for adults with miniature bottles of beer and wine instead of chocolate. In fact, Advent calendars are gaining in popularity every year, with marketers pulling out all the stops: sweets, alcohol, perfumes, and even special calendars for pets.
However, adults—as compared to children and pets—have more challenging "tasks." We will puzzle once again over how to surprise and please our relatives, loved ones, and colleagues.
Many take to the internet in search of a suitable gift. Others rush off to Christmas fairs, where in addition to a wide selection of presents, you can enjoy seasonal drinks, sweets, flavorful pastries, and various meat dishes.
These colourful fairs make the most vivid impression in the capitals and major cities of the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. And such fairs in the New World are no less spectacular—almost every major city organises thematic exhibitions and markets.
It is also amusing to see what traditions people observe throughout the world in hopes of seeing their dreams fulfilled in the coming year. The Spaniards eat one grape during the last twelve seconds of the outgoing year. The Danes break old dishes, and as tradition maintains, the more fragments in front of the doors of relatives and friends, the more beloved and adored that person is.
In Mexico, they have a tradition of writing down all the bad things that happened over the preceding year and then turning those scraps to ashes. Moving southwards, on the vast beaches of Brazil, thousands of people decked in white (the colour of luck) rush to the ocean, where many try to skip over the Atlantic waves seven times at midnight—it is believed this number can ensure success for those seeking happiness.
Dazzling fireworks displays are common to New Year's celebrations in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres, and large-scale shows can be seen throughout the world, including Las Vegas, Sydney, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. However, in the Middle East, celebrations with unique "Oriental" glamour are preferred, sparing no expense for these massive spectacles.
By the way, even in Saudi Arabia, where just five years ago the religious police brutalised and suppressed any attempts to celebrate Christmas and New Year's, you can now see Christmas decorations and buy a Christmas tree in the shops. Previously, foreigners were forced to smuggle in artificial pine trees from neighbouring Bahrain.
And Dubai can rightly be considered a traditional attraction for tourists worldwide. On the night of 2022 to 2023, the UAE authorities promise to hold a real extravaganza on the square around the Burj Al Khalifa, the world's tallest tower. The skyscraper will be the centre of New Year's Eve joy, with a display of pyrotechnics, laser technology, and the familiar singing fountains on an unprecedented scale.
People enjoy the skyscraper vibe during New Year's Eve celebrations in the United States as well—one of the most popular locations is New York's Times Square. Millions around the world are expected to watch the famous ball drop at the 111-metre-high One Times Square online, and thousands will gather in the square to see it with their own eyes. Other residents and visitors will probably go for a walk in Central Park, or opt for an ice skate by Rockefeller Tower, for example.
The one thing that unites all of us, wherever we may be, is the hope for a better future. Oftentimes, sometimes just like little children, we hope to leave all our ills and hardships behind in the old year and make a fresh start in the new one. But there are things that happen independently of our desires and aspirations.
Geopolitics will continue to set the global agenda, with more than enough hotspots in the world. Apart from Ukraine, these include the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Taiwan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kashmir, and others. Unfortunately, these regional conflicts are still simmering and likely to boil over.
And yet, nothing and no one whatsoever can stop us from believing in miracles—something each and every one of us hopes for on Christmas and New Year's Eve.