World starts welcoming the New Year with fireworks and prayers

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Sydney and Auckland are the first major world cities to celebrate the arrival of 2024.

Published On 31 Dec 2023

Sydney and Auckland are the first major world cities to welcome the arrival of 2024.

Over a million revellers celebrated the New Year on Sunday night amid stunning fireworks displays, illuminating the skies over Australia’s Sydney Harbour and New Zealand’s tallest structure, the Sky Tower in Auckland.

The light rain that had persisted throughout the day in Auckland had cleared by midnight over the city.

The countdown commenced against an illuminated digital display near the top of the 328-metre (1,076-foot) communications and observation tower.

SydneyFireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House and on the Harbour Bridge as part of New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia [Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image/AP]

As the clock struck midnight in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, a 12-minute fireworks display erupted around the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

More than one million people watched from the shore and boats in the harbour.

The small Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati had ushered in the New Year an hour earlier.

In Japan, temple bells rang out across the nation as people gathered at shrines and temples to welcome in the New Year.

At the Tsukiji Temple in Tokyo, visitors were given free hot milk and corn soup as they stood in line to strike a big bell, and a pipe-organ concert was held before a majestic altar.

End of a tense year

The New Year celebrations came against the backdrop of Israel’s war on Gaza, which has heightened tensions in some cities around the world, including Sydney, where more police than ever were deployed to oversee the fireworks displays.

The waterfront has been the scene of heated pro-Palestinian protests after the sails of the Sydney Opera House were illuminated in the colours of the Israeli flag after October 7.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis reflected on 2023 as a year defined by the hardships of war.

In his customary Sunday blessing from a window overlooking St Peter’s Square, he extended prayers for various populations, including “the tormented Ukrainian people and the Palestinian and Israeli populations, the Sudanese people, and many others”.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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