People all around the world gathered in groups large and small last night to usher out the previous year, and welcome the arrival of 2010. Under a rare New Year’s Eve Blue Moon, crowds watched fireworks, cheered, made resolutions, and counted down to midnight.
From fireworks over Sydney’s famous bridge to balloons sent aloft in Tokyo, revelers across the globe at least temporarily shelved worries about the future to bid farewell to “The Noughties” — a bitter-tinged nickname for the first decade of the 21st century playing on a term for “zero” and evoking the word naughty.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hailed events in 2009 like the inauguration of the United States’ first black president, and international attempts to grapple with climate change and the global financial crisis.
“The great message from 2009 is that because we’ve been all in this together, we’ve all worked together,” Rudd said in a New Year’s message.
Australia got the some of the festivities rolling, as Sydney draped its skies with explosive bursts of crimson, purple and blue to the delight of more than 1 million New Year revelers near the harbor bridge.
Concerns that global warming might raise sea levels and cause other environmental problems were on the minds of some as the year ended.
Paris jazzed up the Eiffel Tower for its 120th anniversary year with hundreds of multicolored, disco-style lights along its latticework as the world basked in New Year’s festivities with hopes that 2010 and beyond will bring more peace and prosperity.
“The year that is ending has been difficult for everybody. No continent, no country, no sector has been spared,”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on national TV in a New Year’s Eve address.
“Even if the tests are unfinished, 2010 will be a year of renewal,” he added.
Police blocked off the Champs-Elysees to vehicle traffic as partygoers popped champagne, exchanged la bise — the traditional French cheek to cheek peck — or more amorous kisses to celebrate the New Year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned people that the start of the new decade won’t herald immediate relief from the global economic ills.
Italian revelers rang in the New Year with wet feet as high tide on its archipelago peaked just before midnight to flood low-lying parts of the city — including the St. Mark’s Square.
SPAIN rang in the start of its six-month presidency of the European Union with a sound and light show illuminating Sol square in Madrid and images from the 27 member states projected onto the central post office building.
Partiers braved the cold — and a shower from sparkling cava wine bottles — in traditional style by eating 12 grapes, one with each tolling of the city hall bell.
Even as some major stock market indexes rose in 2009, the financial downturn hit hard, sending many industrial economies into recession, tossing millions out of work and out of their homes as foreclosures rose dramatically in some countries.
Despite frigid temperatures, thousands gathered along the River Thames for fireworks just as Big Ben struck midnight — an hour after continental western Europe.
In Stonehaven, on Scotland’s east coast, the fireballs festival — a tradition for a century and a half — saw in the New Year. The pagan festival (Hogmanay) is observed by marchers swinging large, flaming balls around their heads. The flames are believed to either ensure sunshine or banish harmful influences.
In contrast to many galas worldwide, the Stonehaven Fireballs Association warned those attending not to wear their best clothes — because “there will be sparks flying along with smoke and even whisky.”
At Zojoji, one of Tokyo’s oldest and biggest Buddhist temples, thousands of worshippers released clear, helium-filled balloons to mark the new year. Nearby Tokyo Tower twinkled with white lights, while a large “2010” sign glowed from the center.
Tokyo’s Shibuya area, known as a magnet of youth culture, exploded with emotion at the stroke of midnight. Strangers embraced spontaneously as revelers jumped and sang.
Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries where New Year’s Eve is not celebrated publicly. Clerics in the ultraconservative country say Muslims can only observe their faith’s feasts of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. For them, any other occasions are considered innovations that Islam rejects.
Unlike many Islamic countries where pigs are considered unclean, New Year’s in Austria just isn’t complete without a pig-shaped lucky charm — and stalls selling the little porkers did a good business Thursday. Some are made of marzipan or chocolate; others come in glass, wood, rubber or soap.
Herbert Nikitsch of the University of Vienna’s Institute of European Ethnology said the porcine phylactery may originate from the fact that pigs represented food and sustenance for farmers in preindustrial times.
In Shanghai, some people paid 518 yuan ($75) to ring the bell at the Longhua Temple at midnight and wish for new-year luck. In Chinese, saying “518” sounds like the phrase “I want prosperity.”
In the Philippines, hundreds of people were injured by firecrackers and celebratory gunfire during the celebrations. Many Filipinos, largely influenced by Chinese tradition, believe that noisy New Year’s celebrations drive away evil and misfortune — but some carry that belief to extremes.