Revellers around the world usher in the new decade

Fireworks display over Sydney Harbour as part of New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia, on Dec 31, 2019.
Fireworks display over Sydney Harbour as part of New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia, on Dec 31, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
South Korean Buddhist devotees light candles as they pray at the Jogyesa temple on New Year's Eve in Seoul.
South Korean Buddhist devotees light candles as they pray at the Jogyesa temple on New Year's Eve in Seoul.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Shinto priests leave the inner shrine after concluding a ritual to mark the end of the year and prepare for the new one at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, on Dec 31, 2019. People in Japan visit the shrine during the first three days of the year to pray
Shinto priests leave the inner shrine after concluding a ritual to mark the end of the year and prepare for the new one at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, on Dec 31, 2019. People in Japan visit the shrine during the first three days of the year to pray for their health, prosperity, happiness and world peace. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Revellers release balloons as they take part in New Year countdown event in Tokyo, Japan.
Revellers release balloons as they take part in New Year countdown event in Tokyo, Japan.PHOTO: REUTERS
Pro-democracy protesters and people gather at the promenade of Tsim Sha Tsui district as they they take part in a rally and to celebrate the new year’s eve, in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy protesters and people gather at the promenade of Tsim Sha Tsui district as they they take part in a rally and to celebrate the new year’s eve, in Hong Kong.PHOTO: AFP
South Korean Buddhist devotees pray at the Jogyesa temple on New Year's Eve in Seoul, South Korea.
South Korean Buddhist devotees pray at the Jogyesa temple on New Year's Eve in Seoul, South Korea.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
People light up their mobile phones as they celebrate the New Year's countdown event in a road in Ahmedabad, India.
People light up their mobile phones as they celebrate the New Year's countdown event in a road in Ahmedabad, India.PHOTO: REUTERS
New Year's Eve fireworks erupt over Mumbai's iconic Gateway of India.
New Year's Eve fireworks erupt over Mumbai's iconic Gateway of India.PHOTO: AFP

Revellers around the globe are bidding farewell to a decade that will be remembered for the rise of social media, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement and, of course, President Donald Trump.

A look at how the world is ushering in 2020:

AUSTRALIA

More than a million people descended on a hazy Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas ahead of the ringing in of the new year despite the ongoing wildfire crisis ravaging New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

The planned 9pm fireworks over Sydney's iconic landmarks was delayed by 15 minutes due to strong winds, but revellers clearly enjoyed themselves in a desperately needed tonic for the state.

New South Wales has copped the brunt of the wildfire damage, which has razed more than 1,000 homes nationwide and killed 12 people in the past few months.

Some communities have cancelled New Year's fireworks celebrations, but Sydney Harbour's popular display was granted an exemption to a total fireworks ban that is in place there and elsewhere to prevent new wildfires.

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand's major cities greeted the new year with traditional fireworks. In Auckland, half a ton of fireworks burst from the Sky Tower above the city centre.

New Zealanders saw off the old year without regret.

On March 15, a lone 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.

KIRIBATI

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati was one of the first countries to welcome the new decade. The nation's 3,200 coral atolls are strewn more than 3 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

In Samoa, New Year's Eve was more somber than usual. While fireworks erupted at midnight from Mount Vaea, overlooking the capital, 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."

JAPAN

People flocked to temples and shrines in Japan, offering incense with their prayers to celebrate the passing of a year and the the first New Year's 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 still marks Reiwa's first New Year's, the most important holiday in Japan.

"We have a new era and so I am hoping things will be better, although 2019 was also a good year because nothing bad happened," said Masashi Ogami, 38, who ran a sweet rice wine stall at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo, drawing a crowd of revellers.

Other stalls sold fried noodles and candied apples, as well as little figures and amulets in the shape of mice, the zodiac animal for 2020.

Since the Year of the Rat starts off the Asian zodiac, it's associated with starting anew.

The first year of the new decade will see Tokyo host the 2020 Olympics, an event that is creating much anticipation for the capital and the entire nation.

SOUTH KOREA


South Koreans gather along the Cheonggyecheon stream on New Year's Eve in Seoul. 
PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Thousands of South Koreans 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.

Dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight included South Korean Major League Baseball 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.

HONG KONG


Anti-government protesters take part in a New Year countdown demonstration at Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong, China. PHOTO: REUTERS

Revellers as well as pro-democracy protesters flocked to sites across Hong Kong to usher in 2020.

The semi-autonomous Chinese city has toned down New Year’s celebrations amid the monthslong demonstrations. The protests have repeatedly sparked pitched battles with police and have taken their toll on Hong Kong’s nightlife and travel industries.

A fireworks display that traditionally lights up famed Victoria Harbor was cancelled amid safety concerns, while some roads were closed and barriers set up in the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district for crowd control.

INDONESIA


Fireworks explode over Lagoon Beach during New Year's eve celebrations at Ancol in Jakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: REUTERS

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.

 

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 2km from the volcano’s crater following an eruption Tuesday that blasted ash and debris up to 2,000m into the air.

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.

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 were making their way to the banks of the River Thames to jostle for position to watch a spectacular fireworks display launched from the London Eye and of barges near Parliament.

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

To the north, the multi-day Hogmanay New Years 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 on Monday but said the arrests were not related to the London Bridge attack or to New Year’s Eve celebrations.

SOUTH AFRICA

Thousands of revellers gathered at Cape Town’s Waterfront area to ring in the new year with music, dancing and fireworks in front of the city’s iconic Table Mountain.

In past years, residents of Johannesburg’s poor Hillbrow neighborhood would celebrate the New Year by tossing furniture, appliances and even refrigerators from the balconies of high-rise apartment buildings.

Police have issued stern warnings and it appears the dangerous tradition has declined.

In a somber statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa said “while our economy created jobs, these have not been nearly enough to stop the rise in unemployment or the deepening of poverty.“

South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka was deported from Uganda, where she was to perform at a New Year’s Eve event.

Ugandan police cited visa issues, but Ugandan media reported it was because she had voiced support for Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine, the most potent opposition challenger to President Yoweri Museveni.

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 then struck the woman’s hand twice to free his hand.

At a New Year’s Eve Vespers service in St Peter’s Basilica, Francis urged people to practice 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.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

For nearly 10 minutes, fireworks will light the sky over Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, as hundreds of thousands gather downtown to watch the spectacular display. 

The New Year’s Eve display at the 828m-tall skyscraper is just one of seven different 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.

To keep the massive crowds safe, police have 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 brings the most cutting-edge and futuristic technologies.

GERMANY

Hundreds of thousands of revellers are expected to ring in the New Year in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. 

Several German cities including Munich and Hamburg have banned private fireworks amid concerns about the danger and environmental impacts from the increasingly powerful fireworks.

A recent poll by the Forsa research institute found 59 per cent of Germans would support a ban on private fireworks in city centres, while 37 per cent were opposed.

PARIS

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

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

Paris police set up a security perimeter around the Champs-Elysees 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.

NEW YORK

A Chinese dance performance, punctuated with red and gold pyrotechnics, will usher in a host of stars at Times Square’s six-hour New Year’s Eve extravaganza.

The throng of revelers in the heart of Manhattan will get to see rap-pop star Post Malone, K-pop group BTS, country singer Sam Hunt and singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette during the big street party.

While giddiness will likely prevail at the televised event, some important global issues will be driven home, as well. 

High school science teachers and students, spotlighting efforts to combat climate change, will press the button that begins the famous 60-second ball drop and countdown to next year.

Then comes the 1,360kg of confetti, accompanied by more pyrotechnics.

Source: AP