New York City’s crystal ball dropped as rain-soaked throngs in Times Square cheered and smooched in celebration, joining revelers around the world in welcoming the New Year on Tuesday and saying goodbye to a tumultuous 2018.
For many, the sparkling sphere’s time-honored descent came after hours spent in cold, wet weather — a wait made easier by performances from entertainers such as Christina Aguilera, Sting and Snoop Dogg.
Just before the ball fell, Bebe Rexha sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and in the first moments of 2109 many in the square sang along to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” boomed from loudspeakers.
“It was like a true state of pure bliss and unity and love, and it felt like there was no hate in the world,” Brie Dunn, 22, told ABC News as fireworks exploded overhead.
“That’s what I hope for in 2019 and all the years to come.”
The festivities in New York and elsewhere on the US east coast were the latest stop in a celebratory wave that swept west across the globe from Asia to Europe before reaching America.
In Rio de Janeiro, the Christ the Redeemer statue briefly came to colorful life through light projections while pyrotechnics lit up more than two million white-clad Brazilians dancing to free concerts on Copacabana Beach below.
The global partying kicked off on Sydney’s waterfront with the Australian city’s biggest-ever fireworks display, thrilling 1.5 million people. Signage beamed onto a bridge pylon got the year wrong — it said happy 2018 — but city officials laughed off the gaffe.
The fun then moved on to Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands packed streets along Victoria Harbour for a spectacular 10-minute show that illuminated the night.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, more than 500 couples tied the knot in a free, mass wedding organized by the government to mark the arrival of a new year.
Fireworks shows, however, were cancelled out of respect for victims of a December 22 tsunami that killed more than 400 people.
In Japan, locals flocked to temples to ring in 2019, as US boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement to beat Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a multi-million-dollar “exhibition” bout outside Tokyo.
But the night was marred by tragedy in the Japanese capital as a man drove into a celebratory crowd on purpose, injuring nine people, one of them seriously, police said.
– Leaders’ addresses –
In Dubai, fireworks lit up the sky over the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to the delight of onlookers, while nearby Ras al-Khaima sought to enter the Guinness Book of Records with the world’s longest fireworks show.
Almost eight years into Syria’s civil war, people in Damascus celebrated their first New Year’s Eve since regime forces expelled the last rebels and jihadists from the capital’s suburbs earlier this year.
Dozens of families headed to restaurants and bars in the Old City. Among them, Kinda Haddad, a university student, had decided to leave home to celebrate for the first time in years.
“This area was really dangerous in previous years. A mortar round could have fallen on the area at any moment,” the 24-year-old said, alluding to possible rebel fire on the capital.
Russia saw in the new year over several time zones. Concerts and light shows featured in Moscow city parks, and more than 1,000 ice rinks opened for merrymakers.
But a tower block gas explosion that killed at least four people cast a shadow over festivities.
In Paris, “fraternity”-themed fireworks and a light show were held on the Champs-Elysees, with a few “yellow vest” anti-government protesters mingling joyfully with the 300,000-strong crowd.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a televised address, acknowledged his government “can do better” but said “I believe in us.”
In Berlin, music lovers partied at the Brandenburg Gate.
London ushered in the new year by celebrating its relationship with Europe, despite Britain’s impending departure from the European Union. Mayor Sadiq Khan said the capital would remain “outward looking” after Brexit.
In some African countries, election considerations shadowed New Year revelry.
Election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo were eschewing the partying to count votes from a presidential election that was held Sunday.
As the world celebrates, many are wondering whether the turmoil witnessed in 2018 will spill over into the next year.
The political wrangling in Westminster over Brexit was one of the key stories of this year, with a resolution yet to be reached ahead of Britain’s scheduled March 29 departure.
US President Donald Trump dominated headlines in 2018, ramping up a trade war with China, quitting the Iran nuclear deal, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and meeting his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un.
North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization will remain a major political and security issue into next year, as will Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reassertion of control after Trump’s shock announcement of a US troop withdrawal from the country.
The war in Yemen, which has killed about 10,000 people since 2014 and left some 20 million at risk of starvation, could take a crucial turn in 2019 after a ceasefire went into effect in mid-December.