The world’s first major celebration for 2013 began in Sydney as its skyline erupted with tons of exploding fireworks as revelers cheered in the New Year from the city’s crammed harbor.
The enthusiastic welcome to 2013 was continuing on a grand scale across Asia.
Increasingly democratic Myanmar is having a public countdown for the first time. Jakarta plans a huge street party benefitting Indonesia’s powering economy. The Asia-Pacific is preparing with renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to reverberate globally from the United States and the tattered economies of Europe.
Celebrations were planned around the world, with hundreds of thousands expected to fill Times Square in New York City to watch the drop of a Waterford crystal-studded ball.
Sydney’s balmy summer night was split by 7 tons of fireworks fired from roof tops and barges, many cascading from the Sydney Harbor Bridge, in a 6.6 million Australian Dollar ($6.9 million) pyrotechnic extravaganza billed by organizers as the world’s largest.
In Hong Kong, this year’s 12.5 million Hong Kong dollar ($1.6 million) fireworks display is said to be the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city. Police expected as many as 100,000 people to watch.
In a field in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, workers were testing a giant digital countdown screen with the backdrop of the revered Shwedagon pagoda. The celebration is the first public New Year countdown in Myanmar, a country ruled for almost five decades by military regimes that discouraged big public gatherings. With live music performances by celebrities, light shows, food stalls, fireworks and other activities, the countdown is expected to draw 50,000 people.
The Sydney crowds were undiminished by Australian government warnings that the Washington deadlock on the U.S. debt crisis was partly to blame for a slowing Australian economy. Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue hosted the event.
In the case of the Philippine, a big problem remains how to prevent revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers–including some nicknamed "Goodbye Philippines" and "Bin Laden"–that injure hundreds of Filipinos each year, including many children.
A government scare tactic involving doctors displaying brutal-looking scalpels used for amputations for firecracker victims has not fully worked in the past so health officials came up with a novel idea: Go Gangnam style.
A government health official, Eric Tayag, donned the splashy outfit of South Korean star PSY and danced to his Youtube hit "Gangnam Style" video while preaching against the use of illegal firecrackers on TV, in schools and in public arenas.
Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo predicted 2013 would be less turbulent than 2012 because the Chinese New Year in February will usher in the year of the snake, bringing an end to the year of the dragon, which was associated with water. Water is one of the five elements in feng shui theory, the Chinese practice of arranging objects and choosing dates to improve luck.
"Water is fear. So that's why we have had so much turbulence especially in the winter months," such as doomsday prophecies, school shootings and concerns about the fiscal cliff, said Lo.
"But the good news is that the coming year of the snake is the first time that fire has come back since 2007. Fire actually is the opposite of water, fire is happiness. So therefore the year of the snake is a much more optimistic year. So you can see signs of economic recovery now," he added.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.