Here comes 2013! Sydney is first major world city to celebrate as New Year spreads across the globe

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  • Central Pacific Ocean island of Kiritimati (Christmas Island) first to usher in the New Year
  • Sydney saw 2013 at 1pm GMT, with some 1.5 million people attending the city's events
  • American Samoa will be the last place on Earth to herald in the new year on Tuesday at 11am GMT
  • Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, will take part in global celebrations for the first time

By Leon Watson

PUBLISHED: 06:50 EST, 31 December 2012 | UPDATED: 09:42 EST, 31 December 2012

The New Year started with a bang today as the first countries to toast 2013 did so in style.

The central Pacific Ocean island of Kiritimati (Christmas Island) and the eastern-most island in the island nation of Kiribati were the first to usher in the New Year at 10am GMT.

And Sydney was the first major world city to see in 2013 at 1pm GMT, with some 1.5 million people attending the city's events.

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Fireworks explode over and around the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House during New Year celebrations on January 1

Fireworks explode over and around the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House during New Year celebrations on January 1

People watch fireworks under The Sydney Harbour Bridge during New Years Eve celebrations

People watch fireworks under The Sydney Harbour Bridge during New Years Eve celebrations

Eager revellers camped over Sunday night on the shores of the harbour to get the best vantage points to see the fireworks show centered on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

In Hong Kong, this year's 12.5 million Hong Kong dollar ($1.6 million) fireworks display was being billed by organizers as the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city. Police expect as many as 100,000 people to watch, local news reports said.

The buoyant economies of the Asia-Pacific are prepared to party with renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to reverberate globally from the U.S. and the tattered economy of Europe.

One day after dancing in the snow to celebrate the first anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un's ascension to supreme commander, North Koreans were preparing Monday to mark the arrival of the New Year, marked as 'Juche 102' on North Korean calendars - the number referring to 102 years since the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.

'Juche' means self-reliance, the North Korean ideology of independence promoted by Kim, who was born in 1912. His grandson now rules North Korea.

In New Delhi, the festive mood was marred by the death Saturday of a young rape victim.

Fireworks light up the sky during the New Year celebrations at Sydney Harbour

Fireworks light up the sky during the New Year celebrations for children at Sydney Harbour before the main event kicks off

More than 1.5 million people were expected to line the foreshores of the harbour to watch the annual fireworks show

More than 1.5 million people were expected to line the foreshores of the harbour to watch the annual fireworks show

Spectator boats in Sydney Harbour (below) look on as the 9pm family-based New Year's Eve fireworks erupt over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Spectator boats in Sydney Harbour (below) look on as the 9pm family-based New Year's Eve fireworks erupt over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Fireworks explode around the Opera House during the pre-New Years Eve celebrations in Sydney

Fireworks explode around the Opera House during the pre-New Years Eve celebrations in Sydney

Sydney will be the first major world city to see in 2013 at 1pm GMT, with some 1.5 million people expected to attend the city's events

Sydney will be the first major world city to see in 2013 at 1pm GMT, with some 1.5 million people expected to attend the city's events

At midnight, Sydney will kick off a wave of dazzling firework displays welcoming in 2013, from Dubai to Moscow and London

At midnight, Sydney will kick off a wave of dazzling firework displays welcoming in 2013, from Dubai to Moscow and London

Eager revellers camped over Sunday night on the shores of the harbor to get the best vantage points to see the fireworks show centered on the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Eager revellers camped over Sunday night on the shores of the harbor to get the best vantage points to see the fireworks show centered on the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said about 1.5 million spectators were expected to line the harbor to watch the 6.6 million Australian dollar ($6.9 million) fireworks display

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said about 1.5 million spectators were expected to line the harbor to watch the 6.6 million Australian dollar ($6.9 million) fireworks display

 VIDEO   Now watch the Sydney fireworks display...

Several hotels, clubs and residents associations in Indian capital decided to cancel planned festivities and asked people to light candles to express their solidarity with the victim whose plight sparked public rallies for women's safety.

'Let there be no New Year celebrations across the country. It will be a major tribute to the departed soul,' said Praveen Khandelwal, the secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders, an umbrella group of traders who run shops and businesses across the country.

In a field in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, workers early Monday were testing a giant digital countdown screen with the backdrop of the revered Shwedagon pagoda.

Arranged by local Forever Media group and Index Creative Village, a Thai major event organizer, the celebration will be the first public New Year countdown in Myanmar, a country ruled for almost five decades by military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings.

'We are planning this public new year event because we want residents of Yangon to enjoy the public countdown like in other countries,' said Win Thura Hlaing, managing director of Forever Blossom company, a subsidiary of Forever Media.

With live music performances by singers and celebrities, colorful light shows, food stalls, fireworks and other events at the venue, the countdown is expected to draw 50,000 people, Win Thura Hlaing said.

Balinese dancers perform as they take part in a cultural parade during a New Year's Eve celebration

Balinese dancers perform as they take part in a cultural parade during a New Year's Eve celebration

The traditional dance was held at a main road in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

The traditional dance was held at a main road in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

Colourful: Balinese dancers perform their traditional dance to welcome in 2013

Colourful: Balinese dancers perform their traditional dance to welcome in 2013

Jakarta's street party will centre on a four-mile main thoroughfare closed to all traffic from nightfall until after midnight. Workers were erecting 16 large stages along the normally car-clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city. Indonesia's booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and bringing prosperity - or the hope of it - to Indonesians.

Spirits in the capital have been further raised by the election of a new, populist governor, who is pledging action in tackling the city's massive infrastructure problems.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said about 1.5 million spectators were expected to line the harbour to watch the 6.6 million Australian dollar ($6.9 million) fireworks display, while another two million Australians among a population of 22 million would watch it on television.

Father Frost (right) and his granddaughter (centre) take part in a New Year parade in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Father Frost is the Slavic culture equivalent of Santa Claus

Father Frost (right) and his granddaughter (centre) take part in a New Year parade in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Father Frost is the Slavic culture equivalent of Santa Claus

Father Frost, pictured here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is the Slavic culture equivalent of Santa Claus

Father Frost, pictured here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is the Slavic culture equivalent of Santa Claus

'This is really putting Australia on the map in terms of welcoming people to the New Year,' Moore told reporters at the harbour before the event.

Thousands lined the harbour shore in festive crowds under a blue summer sky by late afternoon. Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue was the host for the event.

Last sun of 2012: An Indian vendor sells balloons as the sunsets in Siliguri on December 31

Last sun of 2012: An Indian vendor sells balloons as the sunsets in Siliguri on December 31

An Indian vendor inflates balloons as the sunsets in Siliguri, West Bengal, India

An Indian vendor inflates balloons as the sunsets in Siliguri, West Bengal, India

Florida tourist Melissa Sjostedt was among the thousands gathered near a southern pylon of the bridge. She said seeing the fireworks would fulfill an ambition started a decade ago when she read about them in a National Geographic magazine.

'Ever since that, I've always wanted to see this for real, live, in person,' the 30-year-old said.

Despite the somber mood in the Philippines due to devastation from a recent typhoon, a key problem for authorities remained how to prevent revelers from setting off illegal huge firecrackers - including some labeled 'Goodbye Philippines' and 'Bin Laden' - that maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year, many of them children.

Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill displays a sculpture in Amritsar on December 31

Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill displays a sculpture in Amritsar on December 31

Indian revellers hold placards in Amritsar saying 'happy New Year'

Indian revellers hold placards in Amritsar saying 'happy New Year'

A government scare tactic, which involved doctors displaying brutal-looking surgical scalpels used for amputations of firecracker blast 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 viral star PSY and danced to the tune of his Youtube-hit 'Gangnam Style' video while preaching against the use of illegal firecrackers on TV, in schools and in public arenas.

'The campaign has become viral,' Tayag said. 'We've asked kids and adults to stay away from big firecrackers and just dance the Gangnam and they're doing it.'

A Filipino boy looks as his mother tests a paper horn in downtown Manila, Philippines

A Filipino boy looks as his mother tests a paper horn in downtown Manila, Philippines

The number of firecracker injuries has gone down since the campaign was launched early this month.

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 to 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.

'The positive thing is that people are very optimistic, therefore it will have a very strong drive on the economic recovery. We expect the stock market will do well, the property market will do well,' Lo said.

American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the U.S. in the southern Pacific Ocean, will be the last place on Earth to herald in the new year on Tuesday at 11am GMT.

 VIDEO    Auckland starts the New Year with a bang at the Sky Tower 

 

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