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Tuesday, Oct 27, 2020

New Year 2020: how the world’s cities ushered in the new decade

While Hong Kong’s celebrations were toned down by ongoing anti-government demonstrations, Australia faced its worst bush fire crisis in years and Indonesians endured torrential rains and eruption warnings

Revellers around the globe are bidding farewell to a decade that will be remembered for a raft of massive changes. Here’s a look at how they ushered in 2020 and the new decade.


Hong Kong

Revellers as well as pro-democracy protesters flocked to sites across Hong Kong to usher in 2020.

The semi-autonomous toned down New Year’s celebrations amid the months-long demonstrations, which have repeatedly sparked pitched battles with police.

A fireworks display that traditionally lights up famed Victoria Harbour was cancelled amid safety concerns, while some roads were closed and barriers set up in the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district to control crowds. Read the full Hong Kong coverage here.


China

December 31 is usually a calm day in China. The real celebrations wait for January 25, with the start of the new year in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Next year is the year of the rat.

On a rainy night in the Taiwanese capital Taipei hundreds of thousands packed the downtown area for a fireworks display at the 509-metre (1,700-foot) tall Taipei 101 high-rise building, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

The five-minute fireworks show at midnight included 16,000 fireworks combined with animations featuring Taiwan on a giant wall of 140,000 LED bulbs on the building’s exterior from the 35th to the 90th floor.


United Arab Emirates

The year began in spectacular style in the United Arab Emirates, which used some 190 drones to set off fireworks in Ras al Khaimah. The small emirate also tried to break the world record for the longest fireworks waterfall, with a display some four kilometres long, according to local media.


Russia

Russians began the world’s longest continuous New Year’s Eve with fireworks and a message from President Vladimir Putin urging them to work together in the coming year.

Putin made the call in a short speech broadcast on television just before the stroke of midnight in each of Russia’s 11 time zones. The recorded message was followed by an image of the Kremlin Clock and the sound of its chimes. State television showed footage of extensive festive fireworks in cities of the Far East.

But one holiday tradition was missing in Moscow this year – a picturesque layer of snow. The Russian capital has had an unusually warm December and temperatures in central Moscow as midnight approached were just above freezing.


Australia

More than a million people descended on a hazy Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas to ring in of the new year despite the ongoing bush fire crisis ravaging New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state.

The 9pm fireworks over Sydney’s iconic landmarks was briefly delayed due to strong winds, but revellers clearly enjoyed themselves in a desperately needed tonic for the state.

New South Wales has born the brunt of the bush fire damage, which has razed more than 1,000 homes nationwide and killed 12 people in the past few months.


Japan

People flocked to temples and shrines in Japan, offering incense with their prayers to celebrate the passing of a year and the first New Year’s of the Reiwa era.

Under Japan’s old-style calendar, linked to emperors’ rules, Reiwa started in May, after Emperor Akihito stepped down and his son Naruhito became emperor. Although Reiwa is entering its second year with 2020, January 1 still marks Reiwa’s first New Year’s, the most important holiday in Japan.

Stalls at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo sold sweet rice wine, fried noodles and candied apples, as well as little amulets in the shape of mice, the zodiac animal for 2020. Since the Year of the Mouse starts off the Asian zodiac, it’s associated with starting anew.Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, an event that is creating much anticipation for the entire nation.


Indonesia

Tens of thousands of revellers in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta were soaked by torrential rains as they waited for New Year’s Eve fireworks while others in the country were wary of an active volcano.

Festive events along coastal areas near the Sunda Strait were dampened by a possible larger eruption of Anak Krakatoa, an island volcano that erupted last year just ahead of Christmas Day, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 430 people.

The country’s volcanology agency has warned locals and tourists to stay 2km (1.3 miles) from the volcano’s crater following an eruption Tuesday that blasted ash and debris up to 2,000 metres (6,560 feet) into the air.


South Korea

Thousands of South Koreans filled cold downtown streets in Seoul ahead of a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near City Hall to send off an exhausting 2019 highlighted by political scandals, decaying job markets and crumbling diplomacy with North Korea.

Dignitaries ringing the old Bosingak bell at midnight included South Korean Major League Baseball pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and Pengsoo, a giant penguin character with a gruff voice and blunt personality that emerged as one of the country’s biggest television stars in 2019.


India

Thousands of Indians gathered in front of the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai for the annual fireworks.

Meanwhile, however, thousands ushered in the year by demonstrating against a citizenship law they say will discriminate against Muslims and chip away at India’s secular constitution.

Demonstrations were planned in New Delhi, in the grip of its second coldest winter in more than a century, as well as Mumbai and other cities, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempts to dampen demonstrations that have run for nearly three weeks.

Irshad Alam, a 25-year-old resident of the Shaheen Bagh area of New Delhi, stood with his 1-year-old in his arm and his wife by his side. He said he had been taking part in the protest every day.

“It’s freezing here,” he said. “But we are still here because we care about this movement.” More than 200 people gathered in and around a makeshift stage in the Muslim neighbourhood chanting slogans and reciting poetry.


Paris

A joyful crowd of Parisians and tourists walked, biked and used scooters to reach the Champs-Elysees for the new year celebrations, in a city with almost no public transport amid massive strikes.

Revelers converged at the famous avenue to watch a light show at the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a fireworks display at midnight. Paris police set up a security perimeter around the Champs-Elysees area with a ban on alcohol and traffic restrictions.
All metro lines in the French capital were closed except for two automatic lines, and only a few night buses were running, as Tuesday marked the 27th consecutive day of transport strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the French pension system.


Rome

Pope Francis delighted tourists and Romans in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday night when he took a stroll to admire the Nativity scene. Shouts of “Pope! Pope!” and “Happy New Year!” resounded as families rushed to catch a glimpse of him or thrust out their infant in hopes he would pat their heads or pinch their cheeks.

One woman grabbed the pope’s hand and pulled him toward her to shake it. Francis, 83, exclaimed and then struck the woman’s hand twice to free his hand.

At a New Year’s Eve Vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis urged people to practice more solidarity and to “build bridges, not walls.” Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis has preached openness - a reform-minded agenda that has irritated a small but vocal group of ultra-conservatives in the church.


London

Londoners watched a spectacular fireworks display from the banks of the River Thames that was launched from the London Eye and barges near Parliament.

The familiar chimes of London’s Big Ben clock tower rung in the new year, even though they have been silent for most of 2019 because of extensive restoration work.

To the north, the multi-day Hogmanay New Year’s celebrations in Edinburgh began Monday night with a torchlight parade through the streets of the Scottish capital.

Security was tight in both cities and elsewhere in Britain following a recent extremist attack on London Bridge that claimed two lives. Police arrested five men on suspicion of terrorism offenses Monday but said the arrests were not related to the London Bridge attack or to celebrations.


New York

A Chinese dance performance, punctuated with red and gold pyrotechnics, will usher in a host of stars at Times Square’s six-hour New Year’s Eve extravaganza.

The throng of revelers in the heart of Manhattan will get to see rap-pop star Post Malone, K-pop group BTS, country singer Sam Hunt and singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette during the big street party.

While giddiness will likely prevail at the televised event, some important global issues will be driven home, as well.

High school science teachers and students, spotlighting efforts to combat climate change, will press the button that begins the famous 60-second ball drop and countdown to next year.

Then comes the 1,360kg of confetti, accompanied by more pyrotechnics.

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