Hello, 2019: Revelry and Reflection Greet New Year

December 31, 2018 Updated: January 1, 2019

Fireworks, concerts, and spiritual services abounded to mark the transition to 2019.

A look at how people are ushering in 2019:

United Arab Emirates

Fireworks crackled at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, as hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered downtown to watch the spectacular display.

The fireworks replace last year’s somewhat anticlimactic LED lightshow that ran down the facade of the 828-meter-tall (2,716-foot) tower.

Cafes and restaurants with a view of the Burj Khalifa charge a premium for their locale on New Year’s Eve. Casual sandwich chain Pret a Manger, for example, charges $817 for a table of four. That price gets you hot and cold drinks and some canapes. For burgers near the action, fast food chain Five Guys charged $408 per person for unlimited burgers, hotdogs, fries, milkshakes, and soda.

Elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates, the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah attempted to set a new Guinness World Record with the longest straight-line display of fireworks reaching 7.35 miles (11.83 kilometers).

Philippines

Fireworks light up the sky at the Eastwood Shopping Mall as Filipinos welcome the New Year Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Filipinos welcome the New Year with the loudest noise possible including setting off powerful firecrackers in one of Asia's most violent celebrations despite a government scare campaign and threats of arrests.
Fireworks light up the sky at the Eastwood Shopping Mall as Filipinos welcome the New Year in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines on Jan. 1, 2019. (Bullit Marquez/AP)

Dozens of people were injured ahead of New Year’s Eve, when many across the Philippines set off powerful firecrackers in one of Asia’s most dangerous celebrations despite a government scare campaign and threats of arrests.

The Department of Health said it recorded more than 50 firecracker injuries in the past 10 days, which is expected to increase overnight when Filipinos usher in 2019.

Officials have urged centralized fireworks displays to discourage wild and sometimes fatal merrymaking.

China

New Year’s Eve isn’t celebrated widely in mainland China, where the lunar New Year in February is a more important holiday, but countdown events were held in major cities.

Outdoor revelers in Beijing had to brave temperatures well below freezing.

In Hong Kong, festive lights on skyscrapers provided the backdrop for a fireworks, music and light show over Victoria Harbor on a chilly evening.

Kiribati

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati was the first in the world to welcome the new year.

Kiribati is made up of low-lying atolls along the equator which intersect three time zones, the first of which sees the new year 14 hours before midnight in London.

The new year was welcomed in the capital, Tarawa, with church services and mostly quiet private celebrations.

Australia

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia. (Brendan Esposito/AAP via AP)
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia. (Brendan Esposito/AAP via AP)

An estimated 1 million people crowded Sydney Harbor as Australia’s largest city rang in the new year with a spectacular, soul-tinged fireworks celebration.

One of the most complex displays in Australia’s history included gold, purple and silver fireworks pulsating to the tune of ”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” made famous by Aretha Franklin, who died in August. The show used 8.5 tons of fireworks and featured more than 100,000 pyrotechnic effects.

Earlier, a thunderstorm drenched tens of thousands of people as they gathered for the traditional display, creating a show of its own with dozens of lightning strikes.

In Melbourne, 14 tons of fireworks deployed on the ground and on roofs of 22 buildings produced special effects including flying dragons. In Brisbane, people watched as fireworks exploded from five barges moored on the Brisbane River.

South Korea

A woman prays at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A woman prays at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

After an eventful year that saw three inter-Korea summits and the easing of tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, South Koreans entered 2019 with hopes that the hard-won detente will expand into a stable peace.

Thousands of South Koreans filled the streets of the capital, Seoul, for a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near City Hall. Dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight included famous surgeon Lee Guk-jong, who successfully operated on a North Korean soldier who escaped to South Korea in 2017 in a hail of bullets fired by his comrades.

A “peace bell” was tolled at Imjingak, a pavilion near the border with North Korea.

Paris

Revelers gather near the illuminated Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees for New Year’s celebrations in the French capital Paris on Dec. 31, 2018. (Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP/Getty Images)

Parisians and tourists gathered on the Champs-Elysees to celebrate New Year’s Eve under heavy security.

Anti-Macron protesters from the “yellow vest” movement have issued calls on social media for “festive” demonstrations on the famous avenue.

Paris police have set up a security perimeter in the area, with bag searches, a ban on alcohol, and traffic restrictions. The Interior Ministry said Sunday that the heavy security measures are needed because of a “high terrorist threat” and concerns about “non-declared protests.”

President Emmanuel Macron gave his traditional New Year address to briefly lay out his priorities for 2019, as some protesters angry over high taxes and his pro-business policies plan to continue their demonstrations in coming weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers his New Year wishes
French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers his New Year wishes during a televised address to the nation from the Elysee Palace in Paris on Dec. 31, 2018. (Michel Euler/AFP/Getty Images)

Ahead of midnight, a light show with the theme of brotherhood took place on the Arc de Triomphe monument at the top of the Champs-Elysees.

London

Britons ushered in the new year with the familiar chimes of Big Ben.

Parliament announced last week that the clock’s massive bell would sound to mark the new year with the help of a specially built electric mechanism to power the hammer, which weighs about 440 pounds (200 kilograms). The clock mechanism, which has kept time since 1859, has been dismantled as part of the renovation work.

New Year’s Eve without Big Ben would be positively un-British. The comforting chimes are used by TV and radio stations throughout Britain to herald the moment of transition from the old to the new year.

New York

A drenching rain couldn’t keep crowds from packing Times Square for the traditional crystal ball drop and a string of star performances.

Christina Aguilera pumped up the crowd, performing in a snow-white dress and coat while partygoers danced in their rain ponchos.

The celebration took place under tight security. Partygoers were checked for weapons and then herded into pens, ringed by metal barricades, where they waited for the stroke of midnight.

But the weather forced police to scrap plans to fly a drone to help keep watch over the crowd.

Revelers paid up to $10 for plastic ponchos trying to stay dry. Umbrellas were banned for security reasons.

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