As the clock ticked closer to 2011, cities across Asia readied for midnight events ranging from traditional prayers in Japan to a massive pyrotechnic display in the shape of a dragon in Taiwan.
Europeans were looking forward to celebrations that could help them forget their economic worries.
In New York City, nearly a million revelers were expected to cram into the streets around Times Square to watch the traditional midnight ball drop.
The 20-inch snowstorm that blanketed the city will be just a memory thanks to work crews and warmer temperatures.
At least 1.5 million people are expected to line the harbor in Sydney, the first major city where the new year arrives.
Celebrations begin with aerial displays by vintage aircraft and a parade of bont years, the Western influence has started seeping into Vietnamese culture with teens, who have no memory of war or poverty and are eager to find a new reason to party in the Communist country.
In South Korea, up to 100,000 people are expected to come out for a bell-ringing ceremony in central Seoul , with officials and citizens striking the large bronze bell hung in the Bosingak bell pavilion 33 times at midnight.
Some South Koreans also go to the mountains or beaches on early Saturday to watch the first sunrise of the new year.
At midnight in Taipei, Taiwan, fireworks will form a spiraling dragon climbing up the city’s tallest skyscraper.
Some 50 dancers will beat drums in the freezing cold river in a dance to underscore how people should live with nature in harmony.
In Japan, New Year’s Eve is generally spent at home with family but those who venture out go to temples to pray for good luck in the new year.
At Zojoji, a 600-year-old Buddhist temple in central Tokyo , thousands were expected to release balloons at midnight carrying notes with their hopes for 2011.
In Beijing, about 500 people were expected to gather at the Ancient Bell Museum for the chance to ring in the new year on the 46-ton bell.
The city is also trying to start a new tradition, with an orchestra playing a “Hymn to China” at the China Century Monument just two minutes before midnight.
While many Asian countries famed for their firework displays were planning to light up the night skies, Myanmar’s military government banned all fireworks for New Year’s Eve and said severe action would be taken against anyone selling or using them.
A local news journal, Modern, noted that last year 62 people were given 6 to 12 month prison terms for violating this ruling.
The government gave no reason for the ban but in the past has said that it feared “unscrupulous persons” might take advantage of the fireworks to create disturbances.
In Europe , many people will be partying simply to forget their economic woes after a year that saw Greece and Ireland needing financial bailouts and others, such as Spain and Portugal, battling speculation that they will need similar aid.
If not at home or at private parties, Spaniards traditionally gather in their main town squares to eat 12 grapes one by one as the bell in the square marks the countdown to 2011.
In the Irish capital of Dublin, people will flock to the Christchurch cathedral to listen as the bells chime in the new year.
In London, thousands will witness a musical and firework display at the 135-meter high London Eye, located on the southern banks of the Thames River.
The Eye, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, lies almost opposite the Big Ben clock tower at Parliament that will chime in 2011.
In Paris, tens of thousands are expected to pack the Champs Elysees and the area around the Eiffel Tower for dazzling light and firework displays.
Delhi celebrates New Year amidst tight security
The heavy khaki presence at various spots in the capital today failed to deter revellers as they waited to greet the start of a new year.
People thronged popular markets, malls and other hotspots to ring in the new year.
“The real celebrations will kick-start only after the gong strikes 12,” quipped Ninan Varghese, a student of Delhi University, weighed down by bags filled with festive goodies.
“Most of my friends will be out partying all night and with all the security about we feel safe too,” he added.
Although, most shops in Connaught Place were chock-a-block with people, it was the city’s liquor shops and pubs that attracted the largest crowd.
“New Year’s eve is the time when the city sees a spurt in alcohol consumption so most pubs across the city have come up with offers to add to the festive season,” said the manager of a popular pub in Connaught Place.
Even as celebrations are on in full swing, city police has made elaborate security and traffic arrangements to ensure that the celebrations go off peacefully.
Vehicle checks were stepped up at locations like malls and hotels.
Traffic regulations would also be in place to ensure Delhiites have a smooth run up to the celebrations.
Police personnel will be posted at all hotels, restaurants, markets and religious places which are expected to draw large numbers and owners of pubs have also been asked to immediately alert officials on any probable trouble-makers.
“We have been given strict instructions to keep an eye on motorists drinking under the influence of alcohol and personnel have been stationed at various locations to ensure the same,” said an official on duty.
Delhi police also said that for drunken driving, apart from fines upto Rs 2000 and suspension of driving licences, defaulters may also be given a jail term.
But all these measures have done little to kill the festive spirit among the people.
“The security might be a hinderance to some revellers, but it will also keep them on their toes to behave responsibly, after all celebrations are all about having fun without being a nuisance to anyone,” said Sanghamitra Banerjee, a market analyst, over the din of the thumping music in the background