NEW YORK (AP) — New Year’s celebrations are sweeping across the globe, ushering in 2023 with countdowns and fireworks — and marking an end to a year that brought war in Europe, a new chapter in the British monarchy and global worries over inflation.
The new year began in the tiny atoll nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific, then moved across Russia and New Zealand before heading deeper, time zone by time zone, through Asia and Europe.
At least for a day, thoughts focused on possibilities, even elusive ones like world peace, and mustering — finally — a resolve to keep the next array of resolutions.
In a sign of that hope, children met St. Nicholas in a crowded metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Yet Russian attacks continued New Year’s Eve, and Ukrainian soldiers spent the day — and night — in the trenches. Many Ukrainians returned to the capital, Kyiv, to spend New Year’s Eve with their loved ones. With millions without electricity, no big celebrations were planned, and a curfew was in effect as the clock struck at midnight.
French President Emmanuel Macron rang in the new year with “a message of unity and trust” in a televised address Saturday and pledged continuing support for Ukraine. “During the coming year, we will be unfailingly at your side,” Macron said. “We will help you until victory and we will be together to build a just and lasting peace. Count on France and count on Europe.”
Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, brought in 2023 with street festivities and fireworks. At St. Antuan Catholic Church, dozens of Christians prayed for the new year and marked former Pope Benedict XVI’s passing. The Vatican announced Benedict died Saturday at age 95.
New York City prepared to join the glow of the new year with a dazzling Saturday night spectacle in iconic Times Square, anchoring celebrations across the United States. The night culminates with a countdown as a glowing geodesic sphere 12 feet (3.6 meters) in diameter and weighing almost six tons descends from its lofty perch atop One Times Square. Its surface is comprised of nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals that will be illuminated, officials said, by a palette of more than 16 million colors.
At the stroke of midnight, a ton of confetti was expected to rain down on soggy revelers, glittering amid the jumbo screens, neon and pulsing lights.
Last year, a scaled-back crowd of about 15,000 in-person mask-wearing spectators watched the ball descend while basking in the lights and hoopla of the U.S.’ marquee New Year’s Eve event. Because of pandemic rules, it was far fewer than the tens of thousands of revelers who usually descended on the world-famous square before the pandemic.
Before the ball dropped, there were heavy thoughts about the past year and the new one to come.
Ali Thompson, who was showing her brother around Times Square the day before, said people should do their part to take care of their corner of the world.
“I think we live in a broken world, and we see that play out every day,” she said. “I think anytime that we can do something to make it a little less broken is always a good thing.”
In Australia, more than 1 million people crowded along Sydney’s waterfront for a multi-million dollar celebration based around the themes of diversity and inclusion. More than 7,000 fireworks were launched from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and another 2,000 from the nearby Opera House.
“We have had a couple of fairly difficult years; we’re absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people back to the foreshores of Sydney Harbor for Sydney’s world-famous New Year’s Eve celebrations,” Stephen Gilby, the city’s producer of major events and festivals, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
In Auckland, New Zealand, large crowds gathered below the Sky Tower, where a 10-second countdown to midnight preceded fireworks. The celebrations in New Zealand’s largest city returned after COVID-19 forced them to be canceled a year ago.
Concerns about the Ukraine war and the economic shocks it has spawned across the globe were felt in Tokyo, where Shigeki Kawamura has seen better times but said he needed a free, hot meal this New Year’s.
“I hope the war will be over in Ukraine so prices will stabilize,” he said.
In military-ruled Myanmar, authorities announced a suspension of its normal four-hour curfew in the country’s three biggest cities so residents could celebrate New Year’s Eve. But opponents of army rule urged people to avoid public gatherings, fearing that security forces might stage a bombing or other attack and blame it on them.
Associated Press journalists around the globe contributed to this report, including Henry Hou in Beijing, Renata Brito in Kyiv, Yuri Kagayema in Tokyo, Grant Peck in Bangkok, Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul and Thomas Adamson in Paris.