SYDNEY • Australia's largest city Sydney put on its biggest-ever fireworks display to welcome the New Year and kicked off a wave of celebrations for billions around the world. A record amount of pyrotechnics as well as new fireworks effects and colours lit up the harbour city's skyline for 12 minutes and dazzled the more than 1.5 million spectators that crowded foreshores and parks.
"I am sure we will delight in seeing our beautiful harbour lit up like never before," Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said yesterday before the celebrations.
To mark the international year of indigenous languages in 2019, the harbour hosted a ceremony celebrating Aboriginal heritage that included animations projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge's pylons.
Around the world, the party atmosphere swept across major cities in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas as the clock ticked past midnight.
A strong police presence has become a key element of the events to protect crowds that could be targeted in terror and vehicle attacks.
Here is how cities celebrated:
•Singapore: Bazaars and carnivals in downtown Singapore culminated in a seven-minute fireworks display in Marina Bay at the stroke of midnight.
•Hong Kong: Glittering fireworks were sent skywards from five barges floating in Victoria Harbour in a 10-minute display, watched by an estimated 300,000 people on the foreshore.
•Tokyo: Japanese flocked to temples to ring in the New Year, while US boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr took on local kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a bout outside Tokyo.
•Moscow: Concerts and light shows were held across the city's parks, and more than 1,000 ice rinks were opened for merrymakers.
•Paris: A fireworks display and sound-and-light show under the theme "Fraternity" went ahead on the Champs-Elysees despite plans for further "yellow vest" anti-government protests at the famed avenue.
•Berlin: Music lovers partied at a concert at the Brandenburg Gate, but a popular German tradition of setting off fireworks to mark the occasion was banned in some other cities over safety concerns.
•London: Britain's capital ushered in the New Year by celebrating its relationship with Europe amid turmoil over the Brexit referendum vote to leave the union, with the fireworks display at the London Eye featuring music from the continent's artists.
•Edinburgh: The Scottish capital's traditional Hogmanay celebrations also took on a pro-European theme ahead of this year, when Britain is due to exit the EU.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019
As the world partied last night, many also looked forward to 2019 and wondered whether the turmoil witnessed during the previous year would spill over into the next.
The political wrangling in Westminster over Brexit was one of the key stories of last year, with a resolution yet to be reached ahead of the scheduled March 29 departure from the EU.
United States President Donald Trump dominated headlines last year as he ramped up his trade war with China, quit the Iran nuclear deal, moved the American embassy to Jerusalem and met his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un in Singapore for a historic summit.
North Korea's commitment to denuclearisation will remain a major political and security issue into this year, as will Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reassertion of control after Mr Trump's shock military withdrawal announcement.
The war in Yemen, which started in 2014 and has already killed about 10,000 people and left some 20 million at risk of starvation, could take a crucial turn after a ceasefire took effect in the middle of last month.
Numerous countries go to the polls this year, with key elections to be held in India, Afghanistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.
Major sporting events on the calendar include the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the cricket one-day international World Cup in England and the athletics World Championships in Qatar.