More than 1 million people welcomed the new year in Times Square, where neither the cold nor the strict security measures were obstacles to happiness and merriment.

The famous lighted ball came down, as per tradition, along the pillar situated on the top of the building at No. 1 Times Square when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg activated the mechanism along with the Rockettes, the dancers at the famous Radio City Music Hall.

The partygoers, meanwhile, loudly counted backwards as the seconds ticked off before midnight in preparation for the beginning of the new year, which was rung in with a rain of confetti and cheers, along with the singing of the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" and another symbolic song: "New York, New York."

In addition, the Empire State Building, the skyscraper symbolizing the city, was lit up with Christmas colors.

The celebration, one of the largest and most famous among the new year's festivities around the world, also featured performances by a various singers, including Taylor Swift and South Korea's Psy.

Tens of thousands of people had already gathered on the square some six hours before midnight, even though the temperature was about 0 C (32 F), although - with the wind chill factor - it felt a good bit colder.

Officials had put a large security operation into effect with strict controls, bomb and radiation detectors at each of the 16 access points to Times Square. Nobody was allowed to enter the square with a backpack or with alcoholic beverages. EFE