Photos: New Year's around the world

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  1. Confetti flies over New York's Times Square as the clock strikes midnight during the New Year's Eve celebration as seen from the balcony of the Marriott Marquis hotel, Saturday, Dec. 31. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Lady Gaga and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg prepare to push the button to drop the ball at New Year's Eve 2012 in Times Square on Dec. 31, 2011 in New York. (Jemal Countess / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheer behind police barricades in Times Square in anticipation of midnight on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, in New York. Some revelers, wearing party hats and "2012" glasses, began camping out Saturday morning, as workers readied bags stuffed with hundreds of balloons and technicians put colored filters on klieg lights. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Duval Street in Key West, Fla., is packed with New Year's Eve revelers just before midnight as female impersonator Gary Marion, known as "Sushi," is lowered at the Bourbon Street Pub complex late Saturday, Dec. 31. The Red Shoe Drop is a Key West tradition that celebrated the dawn of 2012. (Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Brazilians celebrate at the annual New Year's Eve beach party on Dec. 31, for the Copacabana Reveillon in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. One of the world's largest New Year's Eve parties in the world rang in 2012 with performances lasting through 3 a.m. (Konrad Fiedler / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Fireworks explode over the Houses of Parliament, including St Stephen's Tower which holds the bell known as Big Ben as London celebrates the arrival of New Year's Day, Jan. 1, 2012. (Alastair Grant / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The iconic London Eye is illuminated with colored lighting before the fireworks marking the coming of the new year in Central London, England, Dec. 31. Over 250,000 people were expected to take part in the festivities on the bank of the river Thames. (Daniel Deme / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A couple kisses as fireworks explode in the sky over Bucharest, Romania, at midnight, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, during street celebrations of the new year. Large crowds gathered in downtown Romania's capital taking advantage of the dry weather to attend the celebrations. (Vadim Ghirda / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. People toast as they celebrate the start of the New Year in Lucerne, Switzerland, Jan. 1, 2012. (Sigi Tischler / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Confetti pours from volunteers on the second floor of the Creative Discovery Museum onto several hundred children crowded together to celebrated the turning of a new year during the New Year's at Noon celebration at the museum, Dec. 31, 2011, in Chattanooga Tenn. (Jenna Walker / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Thousands of residents view fireworks and see in the New Year early Sunday at Red Square in Moscow, Russia. (Maxim Shipenkov / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Revelers attend New Year's Day celebration on Red Square in Moscow, Russia. (Mikhail Voskresensky / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A couple watch a fireworks display light the night sky as they prepare for New Year celebrations in Berlin, Germany, on Saturday. (Britta Pedersen / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A man lights an Old Man effigy, which symbolizes burning the past and getting ready to start a happy New Year without bad memories, early Sunday in Mumbai, India. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Visitors are showered by confetti as they celebrate a light show at the Temple of Heaven during the New Year Countdown Ceremony in Beijing, China. (Andy Wong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bangladeshis celebrate the new year in Old Dhaka by sending a sky lantern aloft at the turn of the new year. (Monirul Alam / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Sri Lankan residents light up fireworks during New Year celebrations in Colombo, where festivities are marked with religious ceremonies, dances and parties across the island. (Ishara S.kodikara / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. People release balloons as the Tokyo Tower is illuminated to celebrate the New Year at a countdown event at the Zojo-ji Buddhist temple Sunday in Tokyo, Japan. (Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Rubbish left by the revellers after New Year's celebrations in Hong Kong's Times Square. (Kin Cheung / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A Pakistani barber gives a 2012 hair cut to a man to celebrate the New Year at a barber shop in Rawalpindi, on Dec. 31. (Strdel / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Fireworks explode near Malaysia's landmark Petronas Twin Towers which are reflected in a pool during New Year celebrations in Kuala Lumpur. (Ahmad Yusni / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Malaysians watch fireworks explode during New Year celebrations at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Lai Seng Sin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A countdown outside the Taipei 101 skyscraper climaxes in a display of fireworks. Hundreds of thousands of people braved cold winds to usher in the new year. (Patrick Lin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge are seen during New Year's Eve fireworks from Mrs. Macquarie's Chair in Sydney, Australia. (Mick Tsikas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pakistani Christians hold crosses ahead of the new year as they light candles to pray for peace in 2012, in Lahore, Pakistan, Dec. 31. (Rahat Dar / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Sri Lankan boys play with firecrackers on the eve of the New Year as the sun sets in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Dec. 31. (Eranga Jayawardena / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The top of the Sky Tower is obscured by clouds during New Year's Eve fireworks in Auckland, New Zealand. Just several hundred kilometers from the international date line, New Zealand's cities are among the first in the world to welcome the new year. (Phil Walter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Women use sparklers to draw "2012" as they celebrate New Year's Eve in Manila, Philippines, on Dec. 31. (Romeo Ranoco / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Shinto priests leave the holy worship area following the year-end purification ceremony at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, on Dec. 31. About three million people visit the shrine during the New Year's holidays every year to pray for their health and wealth. (Kimimasa Mayama / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. People make offerings to Yemanja, the Goddess of the Sea of the Afro-American religion Umbanda, on Dec. 31 at a Paranoa Lake beach in Brasi­lia, Brazil. Hundreds of worshippers gather at the Brazilian capital to make their offerings and pray for the new year. (Pedro Ladeira / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Musicians wearing Christmas costumes take part a New Year parade in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Dec. 31. (Vyacheslav Oseledko / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Some of the thousands of performers gather at the start of the Johannesburg Carnival in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 31. Troops of dancers and performers from various areas of the city parade through downtown Johannesburg on the last day of each year. (Kim Ludbrook / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Boys dressed as Vikings join the men leading the torchlight procession as it makes its way along Princes Street for the start of the New Year celebrations Friday in Edinburgh, Scotland. Thousands of people joined in the torchlight procession, which is followed by the burning of a Viking long ship, to mark the start of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Mary Altaffer / AP
    Above: Slideshow (33) 2012 welcomed around the world
  2. Image: Dutch Swimmers Brave The North Sea For New Years Day Dip
    Jasper Juinen / Getty Images
    Slideshow (30) New Year's traditions
By
updated 1/1/2012 12:18:00 AM ET 2012-01-01T05:18:00

Revelers erupted in cheers amid a confetti-filled celebration in New York's Times Square to welcome in the new year, part of star-studded celebrations and glittering fireworks displays around the world to usher in 2012.

From New Zealand to New York, the world eagerly welcomed a new year Sunday and hoped for a better future, saying goodbye to a year of hurricanes, tsunamis and economic turmoil that many would rather forget.

In New York, hundreds of thousands gathered at the crossroads of the world to witness a crystal ball with more than 30,000 lights descended at midnight. Lady Gaga and Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the crowd in the final-minute countdown of the famed crystal-paneled ball drop.

Revelers in Australia, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific island nation of Samoa, which jumped across the international dateline to be first to celebrate, welcomed 2012 with booming pyrotechnic displays. Fireworks soared and sparked over Moscow's Red Square, crowds on Paris' Champs-Elysées boulevard popped Champagne corks at midnight.

But many approached the new year with more relief than joy, as people battered by weather disasters, joblessness and economic uncertainty hoped the stroke of midnight would change their fortunes.

"It was a pretty tough year, but God was looking after us and I know 2012 has got to be better," said Kyralee Scott, 16, of Jackson, N.J., whose father spent most of the year out of work.

Times Square crammed
Some New York revelers, wearing party hats and "2012" glasses, began camping out Saturday morning, even as workers readied bags stuffed with hundreds of balloons and technicians put colored filters on klieg lights. The crowds cheered as workers lit the crystal-paneled ball that drops at midnight Saturday and put it through a test run, 400 feet above the street. The sphere, now decorated with 3,000 Waterford crystal triangles, has been dropping to mark the new year since 1907, long before television made it a U.S. tradition.

In Times Square, hundreds of thousands people were crammed into spectator pens ringed by barricades, enjoying surprisingly warm weather for the Northeast this time of year. The National Weather Service said Saturday it was about 49 degrees in nearby Central Park. That's about 10 degrees warmer than the normal high temperature this time of year.

As the country prepared for the celebration, glum wasn't on the agenda for many, even those who had a sour year.

"We're hoping the next year will be better," said Becky Martin, a former elementary school teacher who drove from Rockford, Ill., to Times Square after spending a fruitless year trying to find a job. "We're starting off optimistic and hoping it lasts."

Many expressed cautious hope that better times were ahead after a year in which Japan was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami, hurricanes wreaked havoc across the country and a debt crisis devastated Europe's economy.

Slideshow: 2012 welcomed around the world (on this page)

"Everybody's suffering. That's why it's so beautiful to be here celebrating something with everybody," said Lisa Nicol, 47, of Melbourne, Australia.

For all of the holiday's bittersweet potential, New York City always treats it like a big party — albeit one that now takes place under the watchful eye of a massive security force, including more than 1,500 police officers.

Dick Clark, who suffered a stroke in 2004, put in a few brief appearances mentioning that he has hosted his namesake New Year's Eve celebration for years, but said "tonight, it's better than ever." Clark, looking cheerful but struggling with his speech, introduced a performance by Lady Gaga and also assisted in the countdown. The show, hosted by Ryan Seacrest also featured a performance by Justin Bieber.

Around the nation
In Las Vegas, police shut down a four-mile section of the Strip to vehicle traffic six hours before midnight, letting revelers party in the street. Casino nightclubs touted pricey, exclusive bashes hosted by celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Fergie, and fireworks were expected to shoot from the rooftops of eight of the city's most famous casinos.

Atlanta was welcoming thousands to its downtown, where a giant peach is dropped every New Year's Eve at midnight. Fireworks were to be launched from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle; in Houston, tens of thousands were celebrating at a party with country singer Delbert McClinton.

In summer temperatures at Key West, Fla., three separate midnight drops were planned. A giant facsimile of a conch shell was to be lowered at Sloppy Joe's Bar, Ernest Hemingway's favorite watering hole when he lived in Key West. At the Schooner Wharf Bar, the bar owner dressed as a pirate wench was to drop down from a mast of a tall sailing ship. And at the Bourbon Street Pub complex, a drag queen named Sushi was to descend in a glittering 6-foot red women's high heel.

The town of Eastport, Maine, planned to lower an 8-foot-long wooden sardine from a downtown building at midnight, in celebration of its sardine canning and fishing history.

In San Francisco, revelers were lining the waterfront for the annual fireworks show. Though the city's fickle weather and persistent fog can never be counted on to cooperate, forecasters say the skies above the city should be clear overnight.

Samoa leads world revelry
The first worldwide celebrations started in the island nation of Samoa, which hopped across the international date line at midnight on Thursday, skipping Friday and moving instantly to Saturday.

Samoa and the neighboring nation of Tokelau lie near the dateline that zigzags vertically through the Pacific Ocean; both sets of islands decided to realign themselves this year from the Americas side of the line to the Asia side to be more in tune with key trading partners.

In Sydney, more than 1.5 million people watched the shimmering pyrotechnic display designed around the theme "Time to Dream." In London, some 250,000 people gathered to listen to Big Ben chime at the stroke of midnight.

World leaders evoked 2011's struggles in their New Year's messages with some ambivalence.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Europe's crisis is not finished and "that 2012 will be the year full of risks, but also of possibilities."

Pope Benedict XVI marked the end of 2011 with prayers of thanks and said humanity awaits the new year with apprehension but also with hope for a better future.

"We prepare to cross the threshold of 2012, remembering that the Lord watches over us and takes care of us," Benedict said. "In him this evening we want to entrust the entire world. We put into his hands the tragedies of this world of ours, and we also offer him the hopes for a better future."

In Brazil, heavy rains didn't halt parties as upward of 2 million people gathered on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and nearly as many on a main avenue in Sao Paulo, South America's biggest city. Massive fireworks displays and top music acts graced stages across the nation.

Brazil has seen healthy economic growth in recent years, as the country prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Growth, however, has stalled in recent months, and Brazilian leaders are trying to stimulate the economy in the new year.

"This was a good year for Brazil and I think things are only getting better, it feels like we're making big advances," said Fabiana dos Santos Silva, an 18-year-old student who gathered with hundreds of thousands of others on a main avenue in Sao Paulo.

Several people preparing to celebrate the holiday in the U.S. told the AP that they would usher in the New Year hoping the Congress would become a more cooperative place. Some talked about their hopes for the presidential election. Others said they hoped to hold on to their job, or find a new one to replace one they'd lost.

An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted Dec. 8-12 found that 62 percent of Americans are optimistic that the nation's fortunes will improve in 2012, and 78 percent hopeful that their own family will have a better year. Most wrote off 2011 as a dud.

Debbie Hart, 50, of Perry, Ga., called herself the "perpetual optimist" who believes each year will be better than the one before.

"I married a farmer. 'Wait until next year. Next year will be better.' That's what I've been hearing for 30 years," said Hart. "I have faith."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Welcoming 2012

  1. Closed captioning of: Welcoming 2012

    >>> now back to the biggest event playing out around the world tonight, the start of the new year. nbc's dede roy is with a whole lot of friends waiting for the ball to drop in times square .

    >> reporter: good evening to you. it is absolutely electrifying being out here in times square surrounded by a sea of people from all corners of the world. i can tell you they went wild just moments ago when lady gaga took to the stage at the main stage right behind me and did a rehearsal. in the meantime, up to 1.5 billion people worldwide are expected to be watching tonight, many of them already having ushered in 2012 . sydney, australia set the bar high. wowing 1.5 million spectators with pyrotechnics, high octane em blaze onning the sky. in hong kong 400,000 revellers delighted in fireworks painted the canvas above victoria harbor . and celebration in japan where observers released balloons bearing messages for those lost or feared dead in the tsunami and earthquake that hit the country in march. it was a different beat in taiwan where the crowd pulse ated to dance club rhythms while decadence from dubai's over the top bash in front of the tallest building in the world . soul full bells beck on the the new year in south korea . a crowd of 100,000 gathered to hear the first sounds of the year in seoul. just a few minutes ago, the celebrations reached germany. and at the crossroads of the world , up to 1 million people are expected from all corners.

    >> kenya.

    >> alabama.

    >> mexico.

    >> reporter: saying good by to 2011 .

    >> looking for a better 2012 , definitely.

    >> reporter: thousands of nypd officers are blanketing times square . barricades squeezing crowds elbow to elbow, body heat not providing enough warmth for some despite this year's milder than usual temperatures.

    >> i'm like freezing. i didn't think it was going to be this cold.

    >> reporter: people arrived early to get a prized spot.

    >> we got here at 10:00 last night.

    >> reporter: and if they want to see the glittering ball drop , there's no leaving once they're in.

    >> my fingers are frozen. my toes are frozen but we're going to bear it and hopefully enjoy the night.

    >> reporter: to help pass the time there are plenty of distractions down to the very last second.

    >> gaga.

    >> justin bieber!

    >> reporter: and both will be here later on tonight. justin bieber and lady gaga the headliners for the performers later on tonight. in meantime, after that lady gaga will join mayor michael bloomberg and flip the switch to 2012 . back it you.

    >> dede, thanks so much. when

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