Major celebrations to welcome the new year have taken place in some of the world’s most iconic locations throughout today. Lavish and expensive fireworks lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai and even the once-isolated country of Myanmar – also known as Burma – joined the countdown party for the first time in decades.
Much of Europe joined in the celebrations with revelers taking to the streets for fireworks in Athens, Berlin, Warsaw, and Rome. Celebrations have been planned for around the world, including the traditional crystal ball drop in New York City’s Times Square, where 1 million people are expected to cram into the surrounding streets.
Global celebrations began in Sydney, where the balmy summer night was split by fireworks fired from roof tops and barges, many cascading from the Sydney Harbor Bridge, in a 6.6 million Australian dollar pyrotechnic extravaganza billed by organizers as the world’s largest.
An incredible 7 tons of fireworks were fired into the night-sky as the city welcomed in the New Year with style. Asia welcomed the New Year on a grand scale, partying with renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to reverberate globally from the United States and the tattered economies of Europe, where the party was expected to be a bit more subdued.
Big bang: Fireworks explode over Elizabeth Tower housing the Big Ben clock to celebrate the New Year in LondonMagnificent: Fireworks over the iconic London Eye marking the coming of the New Year in Central LondonGreen with envy: The fireworks offered a beautiful spectrum from violet to emeraldFireworks explode beside Vienna’s giant ferris wheel Wiener Riesenrad at Prater park during New Year Spectacular: Fireworks light up the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin as the German city welcomed in the New yearIn a field in increasingly democratic Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, about 90,000 people experienced the country’s first public New Year countdown, after almost five decades under military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings.
‘This is very exciting and also our first experience in celebrating the New Year at a big countdown gathering. We feel like we are in a different world,’ said Yu Thawda, a university student who came with three of her friends.
In Russia, Moscow’s iconic Red Square was this evening filled with spectators as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin to welcome in the new year. Earlier in the day, about 25 people were reportedly arrested in Moscow for trying to hold an unsanctioned demonstration.
An amazing spectacle of fireworks lights up the sky behind the Quadriga statue on top of the Brandenburg Gate shortly after midnight on January 1, 2013 in Berlin, GermanyDramatic: Fireworks explode during New Year celebrations over the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin The sky over the city of Dresden, Germany, was also lit up with fireworks as thousands gathered in the city to celebrate the turn of the yearNew Year celebrations in Warsaw, Poland as 2013 is welcomed with a bangMuted: Fireworks explode over the temple of the Parthenon during New Year celebrations in AthensOptimistic: Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised Greeks that the worst of the financial crisis is past, and declared 2013 a ‘year of hope’Fireworks explode over the ancient Acropolis Hill with the Parthenon temple during New Year’s celebrationsHappy: Revelers write the number 2013 with sparklers during the Hogmanay street party celebrations in EdinburghBut President Vladimir Putin gave an optimistic New Year’s Eve address, making no reference to the anti-government protests that have occurred in his country in the past year.
‘We believe that we can change the life around us and become better ourselves, that we can become more heedful, compassionate, gracious,’Putin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Earlier, the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai took up the baton with a spectacular display featuring multicolored fireworks dancing up and down the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people lined the Victoria Harbor to view this year’s 12.5 million Hong Kong dollar ($1.6 million) fireworks display, said to be the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city.
One day after dancing in the snow to celebrate the first anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un’s ascension to supreme commander, North Koreans marked the arrival of the new year, marked as ‘Juche 102′ on North Korean calendars.
Fireworks light the sky above the Cathedral Square in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius Revelers take to the Champs Elysee to see in the New Year in Paris, FrancePeople toast with a bottle of Champagne as they celebrate the New Year on the Trocadero square beside the Eiffel Tower in Paris, early on January 1, 2013Fireworks erupt over the Naples skyline in southern Italy as 2013 arrivesFireworks light up the ancient Colosseum in central Rome’s via dei Fori just after midnight Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo predicted 2013 would be less turbulent than 2012 because the Chinese New Year in February will usher in the year of the snake, bringing an end to the year of the dragon, which was associated with water.
Water is one of the five elements in feng shui theory, the Chinese practice of arranging objects and choosing dates to improve luck.
‘Water is fear. So that’s why we have had so much turbulence especially in the winter months,’ such as doomsday prophecies, school shootings and concerns about the fiscal cliff, said Lo.
‘But the good news is that the coming year of the snake is the first time that fire has come back since 2007. Fire actually is the opposite to water, fire is happiness. So therefore the year of the snake is a much more optimistic year. So you can see signs of economic recovery now,’ he added.
Beautiful: Fireworks explode over St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow’s Red SquareLooking forward: Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an optimistic New Year’s Eve address, making no reference to the anti-government protests that have occurred in his country in the past yearThrilling: Taiwan welcomes in the New Year with a fireworks display on the Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei
Fireworks illuminate Burj Khalifa while thousands of people gather to celebrate the New Year at midnight in DubaiCannons boomed at midnight in Pyongyang as people crowded the streets of the capital to watch a fireworks show over the Taedong River. Juche means self-reliance, the North Korean ideology of independence promoted by national founder Kim Il Sung, who was born 102 years ago. His grandson now rules North Korea.
In New Delhi, the festive mood was marred by the death Saturday of a young rape victim. Hotels, clubs and residents’ associations in the Indian capital decided to cancel planned festivities and asked people to light candles to express their solidarity with the victim whose plight sparked public rallies for women’s safety.
Jakarta’s street party centers on a 7-kilometer (4-mile) thoroughfare closed to all traffic from nightfall until after midnight. Workers erected 16 large stages along the normally car-clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city.
Incredible: A stunning lightshow illuminates the Summer Palace during a new year countdown event in BeijingFireworks explode in front of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center over the Victoria Harbor as celebrating the 2013 New Year in Hong KongHong Kong went off with a bang to celebrate New Year with this spectacular fireworks display
Exciting: Fireworks explode near Malaysia’s landmark Petronas Twin Towers during New Year celebrations in Kuala LumpurA man watches fireworks explode during New Year celebrations in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPacked: Thousands of people flocked to the main business district to celebrate the New Year in Jakarta, Indonesia
Spectacular: Fireworks light up the sky over the Marina Bay in Singapore
Celebration: Fireworks light up the sky to welcome the New Year at the scenic Manila Bay in Manila, PhilippinesHistoric: People cheer loudly as they welcome the 2013 New Year at the first ever public New Year Countdown celebration at Myoma grounds in Yangon, Mayanmar – also known as BurmaIndonesia’s booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and is bringing prosperity – or the hope of it – to Indonesians.
In the Philippines, where many are recovering from devastation from a recent typhoon, health officials have hit upon a successful way to stop revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers that maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year.
A health official, Eric Tayag, donned the splashy outfit of South Korean star PSY and danced to his Youtube hit ‘Gangnam Style’ video while preaching against the use of illegal firecrackers on TV, in schools and in public arenas.
‘The campaign has become viral,’ Tayag said.
Economic problems weighed down the festive atmosphere in Europe. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s New Year message warned her country to prepare for difficult economic times ahead.
Fun: People gather to release 1,000 balloons to celebrate the New Year’s during an annual countdown ceremony in TokyoOriginal: The year 2013 is written with sparklers in front of the New Palace in Stuttgart, GermanyPupils stand to form the shape of ’2013′ as they wait for the arrival of the new year at Jiujiang Elementary School in Jiangxi Province, ChinaBalinese dancers perform as they take part in a cultural parade during a New Year’s Eve celebrationThe traditional dance was held at a main road in Denpasar, Bali, IndonesiaColorful: Balinese dancers perform their traditional dance to welcome in 2013Father Frost, pictured here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is the Slavic culture equivalent of Santa ClausFather Frost, pictured here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is the Slavic culture equivalent of Santa Claus
Tourists pose as they carry umbrellas with numbers to welcome the New Year 2013 on the terrace of a hotel in the backdrop of Taj Mahal in Agra, IndiaThe Cypriot capital, Nicosia, decided to cancel its New Year celebrations in light of the economic crisis. Nicosia said 16,000 euros ($21,000) saved from the canceled event will be given to some 320 needy school children.
In Athens, fireworks over the ancient Acropolis will usher in 2013 – projected to be a sixth straight year of recession amid the country’s worst economic crisis since World War II. Still, In his televised New Year’s Eve message, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised Greeks that the worst of the crisis is past, and declared 2013 a ‘year of hope’ that will see the beginning of the country’s rebirth.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve with a vespers service in in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI said that despite all the death and injustice in the world, goodness prevails. In his homily, Benedict said taking time to meditate in prolonged reflection and prayer can help ‘find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life.’
Scotland’s Edinburgh, which traditionally hosts one of the biggest New Year’s Eve parties in Europe, remains in good spirits. Organizers say that some 75,000 people are expected for the Scottish capital’s Hogmanay – or year-end – celebrations.
Sunset over Siliguri, West Bengal, India
An Indian vendor inflates balloons as the sunsets in Siliguri, West Bengal, IndiaMore than 22,000 revelers in the Madrid square celebrated the arrival of the new year under umbrellas as rain fell steadily. Up to a million people are expected to gather in New York’s Times Square for the traditional New Year’s Eve celebration that ends with the descent of a huge crystal ball at the stroke of midnight. Another billion people were expected to watch on television, city officials said.
People filled pens in the center of Times Square hours before the end of 2012. Police set up barricades to keep away the overflow crowd. Once people entered the police pens, they were not allowed to leave, no alcohol was permitted and there were no restrooms.
The spectacle erupted at 6 p.m. when the ball rose to the top to the top of its 70-foot poll and fireworks went off. A few minutes earlier, the cheering crowd turned silent when the ceremony released balloons for each of the victims of the December 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Mark Barrigan, a medical software product manager, traveled from Dallas to witness the ball drop live for the first time this year, fulfilling a longtime wish.
‘It was one of those bucket list items,’ Barrigan said, referring to a list of wishes before one dies.
Asked what he was hoping for in the new year, Barrigan replied: ‘Hopefully they’ll make some good decisions in Washington, D.C.’
The temperature in Times Square was predicted to hover just above freezing around midnight, with a possibility of rain or snow flurries, forecasters said. The revelers came to see performers such as Taylor Swift, Psy, Carly Rae Jepsen and Neon Trees.
The illuminated, crystal-covered ball – some 12 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds – was due to begin its descent at 11:59 a.m. EST and drop the 70 feet in 60 seconds. One of those crystals was engraved with the name of Dick Clark, the American entertainer who hosted a popular television presentation of the Times Square New Year’s celebrations for decades.
He died in April of a heart attack. Clark had suffered a stroke in 2004 that sidelined from the New Year’s Eve show for the first time since he launched the annual broadcast in 1972. But he gamely returned to the program the following year, and had continued to announce the annual countdown to midnight.
As part of the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration, more than one ton of confetti was to be released from the rooftops of surrounding buildings in Times Square.
Happy: Benjamin Nadorf, 4, plays with his new glasses while waiting for the New Year in Times Square in New YorkEager: Thousands have already arrived in Times Square, New York. An estimated 1 million people are expected to cram into the area to see the crystal ball dropIndian artist Harwinder Singh Gill displays a sculpture in Amritsar on December 31Indian revelers hold placards in Amritsar saying ‘happy New Year’A Filipino boy looks as his mother tests a paper horn in downtown Manila, Philippines