My first time it was 31st December 2011. I was flying from New Delhi to New York as I had to come back urgently to Bogota but there were no direct flights. I boarded the plane and had a seat in the middle row, among what appeared to be mostly tired Indian travelers and businessmen. Nothing remarkable happened for the first few hours, but as minutes passed and midnight (Delhi´s time zone) got closer I started to feel anxious and excited. I had spent every new year's celebration either with my family or my friends while having dinner and a few drinks, so it felt natural to me that some celebration were to occur on the midnight´s moment.
Then the clock turned to 11:50 pm, the lights were dark and most people around me were slept, I kept hope.
11:55 pm: Nothing's changed.
11:59 pm: I keep looking to my neighbours hoping someone meets my eye with the same excitement I have.
12:00 am: I say loudly “Happy New Year!” There must be around 50 people on my section of the plane and…. not even the slightest reply came back.
12:01 am: I let out a long sigh and disappointed I closed my eyes, hoping sleep would take away my small sadness.
“This is the captain speaking”
(With the tone radio communication should sounded like 50 years ago)
“We will be flying over …. Our estimated time of arrival is … And”
(This last part was said with specially low interest)
“Happy new year”.
I embarked feeling excited and I disembarked feeling disappointed.
A couple of years later I was flying from Bogota to Madrid on the 31st of December as well. This time however I had no expectations. I had a seat on the aisle and no one seating immediately next to me, so I decided to sleep a bit on this 10 hours flight. At 11:50 pm the lights on the plane were turned on and the captain spoke clearly trough the speakers “We are preparing for new year”.
Everyone around me was wide awake and with a smile of joy on their faces, I could hear chatting everywhere.
11:55 pm: The air attendants passed quickly and gave to each one of us a glass of champagne.
11:59 pm: it is 10 seconds to midnight (Colombia´s time zone). The captain starts counting trough the speakers and is immediately followed by all of our chanting voices.
10…. 9…. 8… 7 … the passengers behind me hug each other by the shoulders … 6 … 5... 4… 3 ….2….
1… “Feliz año Nuevo! Happy new year!” all of us are happily celebrating, joy is in the air and in the faces of all of us in the plane, fellow unknown passengers hug one another and two air attendants standing in front of me hug one another tightly while saying “it has been a tough year”.
In Colombia and some other Latin American countries there are quite a few traditions followed on new year's eve symbolizing what we want to achieve during the year: You put lentils on your pockets for the money. You eat 12 grapes, each one is a wish for the next 12 months. You take a suitcase and go running around the block to mean you will be travelling in that year. You wear yellow underwear for the good luck. And many others different families have.
So as I was standing next to my seat happily chatting with the other passengers, a woman passes running around the aisle while holding her purse in her hands at the same time she is jokingly saying “this also works, this also works!”
This time I embarked feeling sleepy and I disembarked feeling quite happy.
Cultural differences are quite something.