Our Celebrations began with our friends and readers in Australia! With fireworks, dancing and late-night reverie, millions around the world welcomed 2014 on Tuesday, gathering for huge displays of jubilation and unity as the new year arrived across 24 time zones. In Australia, fireworks sprayed from the sails of the Sydney Opera House and the city’s harbor bridge at midnight. Revelers in Dubai awaited what was supposed to be the world’s largest fireworks show.
In Ukraine, anti-government protesters hoped to set their own record for the most people to sing a national anthem at the same time. Revelers heading to New York City’s Times Square could expect the annual ball drop but no mayor this year. The new year was to be rung in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor instead.
Closer to the edge of the International Dateline, New Zealand bid farewell to 2013 with fireworks erupting from Auckland’s Sky Tower as cheering crowds danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation’s largest city. Known for glitz, glamor and over-the-top achievements like the world’s tallest tower, Dubai hoped to break another record by creating the largest fireworks show ever.
In Sydney, organizers had expected to set off 7 metric tons (7.7 U.S. tons) of pyrotechnics in 12 seconds. The estimate appeared accurate. “It filled up the whole sky,” said Mona Rucek, a 28-year-old tourist from Munich, Germany. In Tokyo, five priests at the Zojoji temple used ropes to swing a wooden pole against a large bell, sounding the first of 108 gongs to mark the new year. Simultaneously, “2014” lit up in white lights on the modern Tokyo Tower in the background.
Both Japanese and tourists jammed the temple grounds for the traditional ceremony. Suburban resident Juji Muto said he was curious to hear how the bell sounded. At his age, the 75-year-old retiree said he wishes as every year for good health in the new year.
China planned light shows at part of the Great Wall near Beijing and at the Bund waterfront in Shanghai. The city of Wuhan in central Hubei province called off its fireworks show and banned fireworks downtown to avoid worsening its smog.
Pope Francis used his year-end prayer service of thanksgiving to urge people to ask themselves: Did they spend 2013 to further their own interests or to help others? In his homily, the pontiff asked people to reflect if they used 2013 to make the places where they live more livable and welcoming. Citing Rome as an example, Francis said the city is full of tourists, but also refugees.
Britain planned to welcome 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks, torch-lit tradition and worries about immigration.
New Year’s celebrations in Indonesia were widespread except in the city of Banda Aceh where Islamic clerics prohibit Muslims from celebrating New Year’s Eve. In New York City, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hobnobbed with celebrities during past Times Square celebrations, is sitting out this year’s festivities to spend time with family and friends. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will be sworn in at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at his Brooklyn home.
Sotomayor, a New York City native, will led the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball in front of an estimated 1 million celebrants.
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