NEW YORK – From teeming Times Square to a once-isolated Asian country celebrating its first public New Year’s Eve countdown in decades, the world looked to the start of 2013 with hope for renewal after a year of economic turmoil, searing violence and natural disasters.
Fireworks, concerts and celebrations unfolded around the globe to ring in the new year and, for some, to wring out the old.
“With all the sadness in the country, we’re looking for some good changes in 2013,” said Laura Concannon, of Hingham, Mass., as she, her husband, Kevin, and his parents took in the scene in bustling Times Square on Monday.
A blocks-long line of bundled-up revelers with New Year’s hats and sunglasses boasting “2013” formed hours before the first ball drop in decades without Dick Clark, who died in April and was to be honored with a tribute concert and his name printed on pieces of confetti.
Security in Times Square was tight, with a mass of uniformed police and plainclothes officers assigned to blend into the crowd.
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated New Year’s Eve with a vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica to give thanks for 2012 and look ahead to 2013. He said that despite all the death and injustice in the world, goodness prevails.
Elsewhere, lavish fireworks displays lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai, multicolored fireworks danced early today up and down the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Organizers said about 90,000 people gathered in a large field in Yangon, Myanmar, for their first chance to do what much of the world does every Dec. 31: watch a countdown. The reformist government that took office in 2011 in the country, long under military rule, threw its first public New Year’s celebration in decades.
“We feel like we are in a different world,” said Yu Thawda, a university student who went with three friends.
Parts of Europe held scaled-back festivities and street parties, the mood a bit restrained – if hopeful – for a 2013 that is projected to be a sixth straight year of recession amid Greece’s worst economic crisis since World War II. About 22,000 revelers in a Madrid square celebrated the arrival of the new year under umbrellas as rain fell steadily.
London, the often soggy British capital, was dry and clear, though, as the familiar chimes of the clock inside the Big Ben tower counted down the final seconds of 2012 and a dazzling display of fireworks lit the skies above Parliament Square.
Elsewhere, the atmosphere of celebration was muted with concern.
Hotels, clubs and other sites in New Delhi, the Indian capital, canceled festivities after the death of a rape victim on Saturday touched off days of mourning and reflection about women’s safety.
And even in Times Square, some revelers checked their cellphones to keep up with news of lawmakers’ efforts to skirt the “fiscal cliff” combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts that threatened to reverberate globally. And the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and Superstorm Sandy mingled into the memories of 2012.
“This has been a very eventful year, on many levels,” Denise Norris said as she and her husband, the Rev. Urie Norris, surveyed the crowd seeking to jam Times Square for a countdown show.