Saturday 21 April 2018

Fireworks, parties and peace as world welcomes 2018

Fireworks light up the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House as part of new year celebrations Photo: REUTERS/David Gray
Fireworks light up the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House as part of new year celebrations Photo: REUTERS/David Gray

Mary White

The New Year rang in around the world both hot and cold. In hot Australia, fireworks lit up the sky above Sydney Harbour a few hours before midnight, kicking off the city's New Year's celebrations.

Around one million people were expected to gather to watch the festivities. Security was tight, but officials said there was no particular alert.

But in China those willing to brave the cold in Beijing joined a countdown at the tower at Yongdingmen Gate, a rebuilt version of the Ming dynasty-era landmark gate at the southern end of the city's north-south axis.

Bells will be rung and prayers offered at temples in Beijing, but the Gregorian calendar's New Year's celebrations are typically muted in China compared to the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, a time of fireworks, feasts and family reunions.

Authorities throughout China are also on high alert for stampedes or terror attacks at large public gatherings.

Many Japanese are celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Dog in the traditional way of praying for peace and good fortune at neighbourhood Shinto shrines, and eating New Year's food such as noodles, shrimp and sweet black beans.

Barbecued beef and octopus dumpling stalls were out at Tokyo's Zojoji Temple, where people take turns striking the giant bell 108 times at midnight, an annual practice repeated at other Buddhist temples throughout Japan.

North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes cast a shadow over Japan's hopes for peace, said 33-year-old cab driver Masaru Eguchi, who was ready to be busy all night shuttling shrine visitors.

After spending an exhausting year that saw a presidency toppled by a corruption scandal and nuclear-armed North Korea firing missile after missile, South Koreans enter 2018 in need of a happy distraction. The upcoming winter Olympics just might do it.

Thousands of people are expected to fill the streets near Seoul's City Hall for a traditional bell-tolling ceremony to usher in the new year. The group of dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight includes Soohorang and Bandabi - the tiger and bear mascots for the Pyeongchang Winter Games and Paralympics in February and March.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of revellers will ring in the new year in Las Vegas under the close eye of law enforcement just three months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Tourism officials expect about 330,000 people to come to Las Vegas for the festivities, which are anchored by a roughly eight-minute fireworks display at the top of seven casino-hotels.

Irish Independent

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