New Year’s celebrations swept across the globe, ushering in 2023 with countdowns and fireworks – marking an end to a year that brought war to Europe and global worries about inflation.

The New Year began in the small central Pacific atoll of Kiribati, then passed through Russia and New Zealand before deepening, time zone by time zone, through Asia, Africa and Europe to the Americas.

Australia kicked off the celebrations with its first restriction-free New Year’s Eve after two years of COVID disruptions. Sydney welcomed the New Year with a typical dazzling fireworks display, with a rainbow waterfall at the Harbor Bridge for the first time.

strict in China COVID-19 restrictions were only lifted in December when the government abruptly reversed its “zero COVID” policy, a switch that has led to rising infections and meant some people were in no mood to celebrate.

Ukraine war

In the meantime, Russian attacks on Ukraine continued on New Year’s Eve.

At midnight, the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev were deserted. The only sign of a new year came from locals shouting from their balconies, “Happy New Year!” and “Glory to Ukraine!”

Just half an hour into 2023, air raid sirens sounded through the city, followed by sounds of explosions.

In a video message to mark the New Year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2022, said: “I want to wish all of us one thing: victory.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated his New Year’s speech to rallying the Russian people behind his troops. But the festivities in Moscow were subdued, without the usual fireworks on Red Square.

“One should not pretend nothing is happening – our people are dying [in Ukraine]”, says 68-year-old Yelena Popova. “A holiday is celebrated, but there must be limits.”

Many Moscow residents said they hope for peace in 2023.

Muted parties

Elsewhere in Europe, fireworks exploded over the Parthenon in Athens, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, as crowds gathered on the Champs-Elysées to watch the French capital’s first New Year’s Eve fireworks since 2019.

People gather on the Champs Elysees Avenue during New Year's Eve celebrations near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 31, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
People gather on the Avenue Champs Elysees during the New Year celebrations near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France [Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters]

But, like many other places, the Czech capital, Prague, felt an economic squeeze and therefore held no fireworks.

“Having parties did not seem appropriate,” says municipal spokesperson Vit Hofman.

Big Ben rang as more than 100,000 revelers gathered along the River Thames to watch a spectacular fireworks display around the London Eye.

The display featured a drone light display of a crown and Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait on a coin hovering in mid-air, paying homage to Britain’s longest-serving monarch who died Sept.

Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach welcomed a small crowd of a few thousand people for a short fireworks display. Several Brazilian cities have canceled celebrations this year due to coronavirus concerns.

The New Year celebrations in the Brazilian capital used to draw more than two million people to Copacabana before the pandemic.

Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, brought 2023 with street parties and fireworks. At St Antuan Catholic Church, dozens of Christians prayed for the New Year and marked the passing of former Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican has announced Benedict passed away on Saturday at the age of 95.

In New York, the sometimes torrential rain failed to deter the crowd during a dazzling Saturday night spectacle that kicked off the celebrations across the United States.

The Times Square celebration culminated with the descent from One Times Square of a glowing orb 12 feet (3.6 meters) in diameter and made up of nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals.

Before the ball dropped, there were heavy thoughts about the past year and the new one to come.

“2023 is about resurgence – revival of the world after COVID-19 and after the war in Ukraine. We want it to stop,” said Arjun Singh as he took in the Times Square scene.

Concerns about the war in Ukraine and the economic shocks it has caused around the world were felt in Tokyo, where Shigeki Kawamura has seen better days but said he needed a free hot meal this New Year’s Day.

“I hope the war in Ukraine is over so that prices will stabilize,” he said.

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