World

New Year's Eve celebrations around the world ring in a new decade

Revellers around the world marked a new year — and a new decade — with street parties and fireworks, although celebrations were dampened in some areas due to wildfires, protests and renewed nuclear tensions.

Sydney welcomes 2020 with fireworks despite wildfires, while Hong Kong's were cancelled

New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world

2 years ago
5:38
Here’s how some countries around the globe rang in the new year. 5:38

Revellers around the world marked a new year — and a new decade — with street parties and fireworks, although celebrations were dampened in some areas due to wildfires, anti-government protests and even renewed nuclear tensions with North Korea.

People bid farewell to a decade that will be remembered for the rise of social media, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement and, of course, U.S. President Donald Trump. As 2020 begins, issues such as climate change and the impeachment proceedings against Trump are likely to remain prominent.

While fireworks exploded over the Acropolis in Athens and the Kremlin in Moscow, and New Yorkers waited hours in the cold for the annual New Year's Eve party in Times Square, North Korea's state media reported that leader Kim Jong-un pledged his country will introduce a "new strategic weapon" soon as part of its nuclear program.

The report from the Korean Central News Agency offered no details.

Here's a look at how New Year's Eve celebrations unfolded for millions around the world:

New York

Fireworks burst and confetti fell as throngs of revellers cheered the start of 2020 in New York City's Times Square.

In one of the globe's most-watched New Year's Eve spectacles, the crowd counted down the last seconds of 2019 as a luminescent crystal ball descended down a pole.

In an image taken with a fisheye lens, confetti drops over the crowd as the clock strikes midnight during the New Year's celebration as seen from the New York Marriott Marquis in New York's Times Square, Jan. 1. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)

About 1,360 kilograms of confetti showered the sea of attendees, many of whom were also briefly rained on earlier in the evening as they waited in security pens for performances by stars including rap-pop star Post Malone, K-pop group BTS, country singer Sam Hunt and singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette.

The crowds packed into the heart of Manhattan mouthed lyrics and waved yellow and purple balloons in a frenzy as midnight approached.

"It was a dream, I wanted to do it so this year a lot of people helped me to get here so I'm here, and I'm thankful for that," said Mariemma Mejias, 48, who flew to New York for the festivities from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Rio de Janeiro

About three million people welcomed 2020 at Brazil's iconic Copacabana beach as almost 15,422 kilograms of colourful fireworks went off for 14 minutes after midnight.

Rio de Janeiro holds one of the biggest New Year parties in the world, with music, drinks and religious rituals on the shores. Many dress in white in a traditional sign of their hope for peace. About 2,000 policemen were working to ensure party-goers were safe.  

People watch as fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Jan. 1. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Many locals and tourists are expected to stick around Copacabana until Wednesday's sunrise for their first dip of the year in the ocean, looking to wash away their troubles from 2019. Summer in Rio often brings high temperatures early on.

The party in São Paulo, Brazil's metropolis, brought about two million people out to Paulista Avenue, the city's main road. Nearly all 2,720 kilograms of fireworks used there were silent so pets did not get too bothered by the noise.

Paris

A joyful crowd of Parisians and tourists walked, biked and used scooters to reach the Champs-Élysées for the celebrations, in a city with almost no public transport amid massive strikes.

Revellers converged toward the famous avenue to watch a light show at the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a fireworks display at midnight.

Revellers photograph fireworks over the Arc de Triomphe as they celebrate the New Year on the Champs-Élysées in Paris early on Wednesday. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

Paris police set up a security perimeter around the Champs-Élysées area with a ban on alcohol and traffic restrictions.

All metro lines in the French capital were closed except for two automatic lines, and only a few night buses were running, as Tuesday marked the 27th consecutive day of transport strikes against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to overhaul the French pension system.

Rome

Pope Francis delighted tourists and Romans in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday night when he took a stroll to admire the nativity scene. Shouts of "Pope! Pope!" and "Happy New Year!" resounded as families rushed to catch a glimpse of him or thrust out their infant in hopes he would pat their heads or pinch their cheeks.

One woman grabbed the Pope's hand and pulled him toward her to shake it. Francis, 83, exclaimed and struck the woman's hand twice to free his hand.

Pope grabbed at Vatican

2 years ago
0:26
A visibly indignant Pope Francis had to pull himself away from a woman in a crowd in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday after she had grabbed his hand and yanked him towards her. 0:26

At a New Year's Eve Vespers service in St. Peter's Basilica, Francis urged people to practise more solidarity and to "build bridges, not walls." Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis has preached openness — a reform-minded agenda that has irritated a small but vocal group of ultra-conservatives in the church.

Russia

Russians began the world's longest continuous New Year's Eve with fireworks and a message from President Vladimir Putin urging them to work together in the coming year.

Putin made the call in a short speech broadcast on television just before the stroke of midnight in each of Russia's 11 time zones.

Fireworks explode over the Kremlin during New Year's celebrations in Red Square with the Spasskaya Tower, left, in the background in Moscow. (Denis Tyrin/The Associated Press)

As is tradition, the recorded message was followed by an image of the Kremlin Clock and the sound of its chimes. State TV showed footage of extensive festive fireworks in cities of the Far East.

But one holiday tradition was missing in Moscow this year — a picturesque layer of snow. The Russian capital has had an unusually warm December and temperatures in central Moscow as midnight approached were just above freezing.

London

Londoners watched a spectacular fireworks display from the banks of the River Thames that was launched from the London Eye and barges near Parliament.

The familiar chimes of London's Big Ben clock tower rang in the new year, even though they have been silent for most of 2019 because of extensive restoration work.

Fireworks explode over the London Eye during New Year celebrations in Britain on Wednesday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

To the north, the multi-day Hogmanay New Year's celebrations in Edinburgh began Monday night with a torchlight parade through the streets of the Scottish capital.

Security was tight in both cities and elsewhere in Britain following a recent extremist attack on London Bridge that claimed two lives. Police arrested five men on suspicion of terrorism offences Monday but said the arrests were not related to the London Bridge attack or to celebrations.

Australia

In Australia, some communities cancelled fireworks celebrations due to the devastating wildfires. But Sydney's popular display over its iconic harbourfront went ahead, with more than a million people descending on the hazy harbour. The city was granted an exemption to a fireworks ban there and elsewhere to prevent new wildfires.

Sydney welcomes 2020 with fireworks amid wildfires

2 years ago
0:34
Sydney was granted a New Year's Eve exemption to a fireworks ban designed to prevent new wildfires elsewhere in Australia. 0:34

Some tourists trapped in Australia's coastal towns posted images of blood-red, smoke-filled skies on social media. One beachfront photograph showed people, some wearing gas masks, lying shoulder-to-shoulder on the sand.

The fires have spread across four states, with fronts stretching hundreds of kilometres in some cases. They have killed at least 12 people and razed more than 1,000 homes nationwide since October.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's government also cancelled its popular New Year's Eve fireworks in Victoria Harbour due to security concerns as protesters staged more rallies against what they see as an erosion of democracy in the Chinese-ruled city.

A Symphony of Lights took place instead, involving projections on the city's tallest skyscrapers after a countdown to midnight.

People in Hong Kong participate in a pro-democracy march on New Year's Day to insist their five demands be matched by the government in Hong Kong. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

Authorities deployed 6,000 police officers, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam appealed for calm and reconciliation in her New Year's Eve video message.

The protests began in June in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

United Arab Emirates

For nearly 10 minutes, fireworks lit the sky over Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, as hundreds of thousands gathered downtown to watch the spectacular display.

The New Year's Eve display at the 828-metre-tall skyscraper was just one of seven fireworks shows across the emirate. Tourists, especially from Europe and Russia, flock to the sunny beaches of Dubai at this time of year to escape the cold, dark winter.

Fireworks light up the sky over Dubai

2 years ago
2:45
Revellers in Dubai were treated to a fireworks display over the Burj Khalifa Hotel on New Year’s Eve. 2:45

To keep the massive crowds safe, police created walkways around the Burj Khalifa tower for male-only groups to separate them from families and women.

Dubai this year will be hosting Expo 2020, a world fair that highlights the most cutting-edge and futuristic technologies.

New Zealand

Major cities greeted the new year with traditional fireworks. In Auckland, about half a tonne of fireworks burst from the Sky Tower above the city centre.

New Zealanders saw off the old year without regret. In March, a gunman killed 51 people and wounded dozens at two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch. In December, an eruption of volcanic White Island off the east coast of the North Island killed at least 19 tourists and tour guides.

Indonesia

Tens of thousands of revellers in Indonesia's capital of Jakarta were soaked by torrential rains as they waited for New Year's Eve fireworks.

A man takes a picture near the 2020 sign board in the main business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, late Tuesday. Tens of thousands of revellers in Indonesia's capital were soaked by torrential rains as they waited for New Year's Eve fireworks. (Tatan Syuflana/The Associated Press)

Festive events along coastal areas near the Sunda Strait were dampened by a possible larger eruption of Anak Krakatau, an island volcano that erupted last year just ahead of Christmas Day, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 430 people.

The country's volcanology agency has warned locals and tourists to stay two kilometres from the volcano's crater following an eruption Tuesday that blasted ash and debris up to 2,000 metres into the air.

Japan

People flocked to temples and shrines, offering incense with prayers to celebrate the passing of a year and the first New Year's Eve of the Reiwa era.

Under Japan's old-style calendar, linked to emperors' rules, Reiwa started in May after Emperor Akihito stepped down and his son Naruhito became emperor. Although Reiwa is entering its second year with 2020, Jan. 1 marks Reiwa's first New Year's, the most important holiday in Japan.

Revellers release balloons as they take part in a New Year's Eve countdown event in Tokyo. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Stalls at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo sold sweet rice wine, fried noodles and candied apples, as well as little amulets in the shape of mice, the zodiac animal for 2020. Since the Year of the Mouse starts off the Asian zodiac, it's associated with starting anew.

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, an event that is creating much anticipation for the entire nation.

South Korea

Thousands filled cold downtown streets in Seoul ahead of a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near city hall to send off an exhausting 2019 highlighted by political scandals, decaying job markets and crumbling diplomacy with North Korea.

Selfies abound during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Seoul. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight included recently signed Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and Pengsoo, a giant penguin character with a gruff voice and blunt personality that emerged as one of the country's biggest TV stars in 2019.

The annual tolling of the peace bell at Imjingak park near the border with North Korea was cancelled due to quarantine measures following an outbreak of African swine fever.

Kiribati

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati was one of the first countries to welcome the new decade. The 3,200 coral atolls are strewn more than three million square miles, straddling the equator.

As the new year begins, Kiribati finds itself on the front line of the battle against climate change, facing drought and rising sea levels.

In 2020, a project funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Green Climate Fund and Kiribati's government brings hope of providing safe and climate-secure drinking water to the main island of Tarawa, which is home to most of the nation's 110,000 people.

Samoa

While fireworks erupted at midnight from Mount Vaea, overlooking Samoa's capital of Apia, the end of the year was a time of sadness and remembrance.

A measles epidemic in late 2019 claimed 81 lives, mostly children under five.

More than 5,600 measles cases were recorded in the nation of just under 200,000. With the epidemic now contained, the Samoa Observer newspaper named as its Person of the Year health workers who fought the outbreak.

"We have experienced extreme sadness and sorrow," the newspaper said. "Since the first measles death, the pain has only deepened. But amidst much hopelessness and tears, we have also seen the best of mankind in this country's response."

With files from Reuters

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