Crowds ring in 2023 with fireworks, fetes and hope for an end to 2022 challenges

Throngs of people celebrated New Year's Eve, filling squares and gathering places around the world after two years of COVID disruptions in the waning hours of a year marked by the war in Ukraine, economic stresses and the effects of global warming. 

Around the world, cheering crowds for a moment cast off shadow of war, pandemic

New Year's celebrations swept across the globe, ushering in 2023 with countdowns and fireworks — and marking an end to a year that brought war in Europe, a new chapter in the British monarchy and global worries over inflation.

The new year began in the tiny atoll nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific, then moved across Russia and New Zealand before heading by time zone through Asia and Europe and into the Americas.

The women, facing the camera, hold up with their right hands individual balloons that together spell out '2023'. The golden sun is shining through the zero.
Women are silhouetted against the setting sun as they hold up numeric-shaped balloons on New Year's Eve in Bhopal, India. (Gagan Nayar/AFP/Getty Images)

The ball dropped on New York City's iconic Times Square as huge crowds counted down the seconds into 2023, culminating in raucous cheers and a deluge of confetti glittering amid jumbo screens, neon, pulsing lights and soggy streets.

A man wielding a machete attacked three police officers near the celebration, authorities said, striking two of them in the head before an officer shot the man in the shoulder about eight blocks from Times Square, just outside the high-security zone. The two officers were hospitalized, one with a fractured skull and the other with a bad cut, but were expected to recover. The 19-year-old suspect was also expected to recover.

St. Nicholas in Kharkiv

Across the world, at least for a day, thoughts focused on possibilities, even elusive ones like world peace, and mustering — finally — a resolve to keep the next array of resolutions.

In a sign of that hope, children met St. Nicholas in a crowded subway station in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Yet Russian attacks continued New Year's Eve. At midnight, the streets of the capital, Kyiv, were desolate. The only sign of a new year came from local residents shouting from their balconies, "Happy New Year!" and "Glory to Ukraine!" And only half an hour into 2023, air raid sirens rang across Ukraine's capital, followed by the sound of explosions.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported an explosion in Holosiivskyi district, and authorities reported that fragments of a missile that had been shot down had damaged a car in a central district.

Children with a St. Nicholas character in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A man dressed as St. Nicholas meets children at a subway station decorated for Christmas and New Year in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. (Evgeniy Maloletka/The Associated Press)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a short New Year's tribute Saturday urging Canadians to give thanks for the country's strong economic recovery, and stoicism in the face of COVID and the war in Ukraine.

"This year also had challenges, but when things got hard, we were there for each other … We have been there to support the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend their country."

Rain scuppers Parliament Hill multimedia projection

Canadians rang in the new year Saturday night with parties, fireworks and in some places, a lot of rain.

Rain put a damper on Canada's official New Year's Eve event, forcing the cancellation of the Winter Lights Across Canada multimedia projection on Parliament Hill, although the city's Hogman-eh! celebration at Lansdowne Park did manage to put on fireworks despite the weather.

Newfoundland was the first province to welcome 2023, with the official fireworks display in St. John's held earlier in the evening at Quidi Vidi Lake and recorded to air on television.

Celebrations, performances and fireworks displays were held in Halifax, Toronto and Edmonton, among other cities.

A cluster of fireworks explosions hangs in a dark sky. People in silhouette hold up personal electronic devices.
New Year's fireworks are seen over Toronto's inner harbour, photographed after midnight from Ireland Park, on Sunday. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

While Vancouver cancelled its New Year's Eve fireworks, bars and restaurants picked up the slack for the night, with extra police officers deployed to the entertainment district, including Granville Street, Yaletown and Gastown.

In Paris, thousands celebrated on the Champs-Élysées, while French President Emmanuel Macron pledged continuing support for Ukraine in a televised New Year's address. "During the coming year, we will be unfailingly at your side," Macron said. "We will help you until victory and we will be together to build a just and lasting peace. Count on France and count on Europe."

100,000 revellers in London

Big Ben chimed as more than 100,000 revellers gathered along the River Thames to watch a spectacular fireworks show around the London Eye. The display featured a drone light display of a crown and Queen Elizabeth II's portrait on a coin hovering in the sky, paying tribute to Britain's longest-serving monarch, who died in September.

Fireworks light up the night sky around the London Eye and Big Ben as its hands show midnight.
Fireworks light up the skyline over Big Ben and the London Eye just after midnight on Sunday in London. The British capital's New Year's Eve fireworks display returned this year after it was cancelled due to the pandemic. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach welcomed a small crowd of a few thousand for a short fireworks display, and several Brazilian cities cancelled celebrations this year due to concern about the coronavirus. The Brazilian capital's New Year's bash usually drew more than two million people to Copacabana before the pandemic.

Turkey's most populous city, Istanbul, brought in 2023 with street festivities and fireworks. At St. Antuan Catholic Church, dozens of Christians prayed for the new year and marked former pope Benedict XVI's passing. The Vatican announced Benedict died Saturday at age 95.

In New York, rain that was fierce at times did not deter the crowd at a dazzling Saturday night spectacle kicking off celebrations across the United States. The Times Square party culminated with the descent from One Times Square of a glowing sphere 3.6 metres in diameter and consisting of nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals.

"I just wish everyone a lot of prosperity peace and love," reveller Tina Wright, who was visiting from the Phoenix area, said after the countdown. "And let's just get things moving in the world right now."

Confetti of multiple colours including orange, blue and green flies over a large crowd that fills the frame. Brightly illuminated advertisements are obscured by the large amount of confetti.
Confetti flies around the countdown clock during the first public New Year's event since the COVID-19 pandemic, at Times Square in New York City. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Last year, a scaled-back crowd of about 15,000 in-person mask-wearing spectators watched the ball descend while basking in the lights and hoopla. Because of pandemic rules, it was far fewer than the tens of thousands of revellers who usually descend on the world-famous square.

Before the ball dropped, there were heavy thoughts about the past year and the new one to come.

"2023 is about resurgence — resurgence of the world after COVID-19 and after the war in Ukraine. We want it to end," said Arjun Singh as he took in the scene at Times Square.

Spectacular display in Australia

In Australia, more than a million people crowded along Sydney's waterfront for a multi-million-dollar celebration based around the themes of diversity and inclusion. More than 7,000 fireworks were launched from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and another 2,000 from the nearby Opera House.

"We have had a couple of fairly difficult years; we're absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people back to the foreshores of Sydney Harbour for Sydney's world-famous New Year's Eve celebrations," Stephen Gilby, the city's producer of major events and festivals, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Fireworks explode in fuschias and purples over the Sydney Opera house and boats in Australian New Year celebratinos
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as New Year celebrations begin in Sydney, Australia, Sunday. (Bianca De Marchi/The Associated Press)

In Auckland, New Zealand, large crowds gathered below the Sky Tower, where a 10-second countdown to midnight preceded fireworks. The celebrations in New Zealand's largest city returned after COVID-19 forced them to be cancelled a year ago.

Chinese cautiously looked forward to 2023 after a recent easing of pandemic restrictions unleashed the virus but also signalled a return to normal life. Like many, salesperson Hong Xinyu stayed close to home over the past year in part because of curbs on travel.

"As the new year begins, we seem to see the light," he said at a countdown show that lit up the towering structures of a former steel mill in Beijing. "We are hopeful that there will be more freedom in the future."

A group of people waving red flags gather in Shougang Park in Beijing to celebrate the new year.
Revellers count down to the new year at Shougang Park in Beijing on Sunday. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

Concerns about the Ukraine war and the economic shocks it has spawned across the globe were felt in Tokyo, where Shigeki Kawamura has seen better times but said he needed a free, hot meal this New Year's.

"I hope the war will be over in Ukraine so prices will stabilize," he said.

A group of smiling people wait in queue before they pray at the main hall of Sensoji Buddhist temple on New Year's Day in Tokyo
People wait in queue before they pray at the main hall of Sensoji Buddhist temple on New Year's Day in Tokyo. (Hiro Komae/The Associated Press)

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News


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