New Year’s Eve Celebrations Around the World

Millions of people around the world are preparing to usher in 2018 with large celebrations and massive firework displays.

Australia was one of the first countries to celebrate as the clock struck midnight before moving across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally the Americas.

Fireworks lit up the sky above Sydney Harbour in a massive display that included a rainbow waterfall cascade of lights and colour flowing off the harbor’s bridge to celebrate the legalising of same-sex marriage.

Samoa, Christmas Island and Kiribati were the first to celebrate the New Year. New Zealand quickly followed as tens of thousands gathered around Sky Tower in Auckland for five minutes of nonstop pyrotechnics exploding from the structure’s upper decks.

But on nearby Waiheke Island, 30 kilometres away, authorities cancelled a planned fireworks display because of drought conditions and low water supplies for firefighters.

Japan will be next to welcome in the arrival of the Year of the Dog in the traditional way of praying for peace and good fortune at neighbourhood Shinto shrines.

Food stalls had already been set up at Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple, where people take turns striking the giant bell 108 times at midnight, an annual practice repeated at other Buddhist temples throughout Japan.

After spending an exhausting year that saw a presidency toppled by a corruption scandal and nuclear-armed North Korea firing missile after missile, South Koreans enter 2018 in need of a happy distraction.

A woman prays in front of lanterns to celebrate the New Year at Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea

The upcoming winter Olympics just might do it.

Thousands of people are also expected to fill the streets near Seoul’s City Hall for a traditional bell-tolling ceremony to usher in the new year.

The group of dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight includes Soohorang and Bandabi — the tiger and bear mascots for the Pyeongchang Winter Games and Paralympics in February and March.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to flock to eastern coastal areas, including Gangneung, the seaside city that will host the Olympic skating and hockey events, to watch the sun rise on 2018.

Storm won’t dampen Edinburgh festivities

A woman prays in front of lanterns to celebrate the New Year at Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea

Meanwhile, revellers in parts of Europe, China and the United States have been warned to dress in layers, lay off the booze and bring some hand warmers ahead of brutal weather conditions.

A major windstorm was causing problems in Scotland, but organisers expected Edinburgh’s famed Hogmany New Year’s Eve celebration to be unaffected.

Storm Dylan is battering parts of Scotland with gusts of up to 128 kilometres per hour, with forecasters saying injuries are possible because of flying debris.

However, forecasters have not put wind warnings in place for Sunday night, when the Hogmany celebrations are planned. Event organisers say the forecast for Edinburgh indicates the celebrations will not have to be curtailed.

The Edinburgh celebration is one of the most popular in Britain and regularly draws visitors from many parts of the world.

Times Square countdown could be coldest on record

Those preparing to celebrate in New York City’s Times Square have been warned to brace for what could be one of the coldest New Year’s Eve ball drops on record.

City and state health officials are advising people to cover all exposed skin, and wear a hat, scarf and gloves. Drinking alcohol has been discouraged because it causes the body to lose heat faster.

The coldest New Year’s Eve in Times Square came in 1917, when it was -17 degrees Celsius at midnight.

This year, the forecast is for -11C with a wind chill around -17C, which would tie for second with 1962.

In other areas of the country being gripped by the cold, some events are being cancelled or reconsidered.

Times Square to shiver through new year celebrations

Those willing to brave the cold in Beijing will join a countdown at the tower at Yongdingmen Gate, a rebuilt version of the Ming dynasty-era landmark gate at the southern end of the city’s north-south axis.

Bells will be rung and prayers offered at temples in Beijing, but the Gregorian calendar’s New Year’s celebrations are typically muted in China compared to the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival — a time of fireworks, feasts and family reunions.

Police in the central city of Zhengzhou are putting 3,500 officers on duty across the city, while residents gather to watch a light show and cultural performance in a public square.

Authorities throughout China are on high alert for stampedes or terror attacks at large public gatherings.