The year 2022 was marked by the emergence and spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, which caused a surge in cases and hospitalizations in many countries. Despite the pandemic, millions of people around the world celebrated the arrival of 2023 with fireworks, music, and hope for a better future. Here are some of the highlights of the new year celebrations across the globe.
London pays tribute to the Queen with spectacular display
The UK capital put on a dazzling show of lights and pyrotechnics that lit up the sky over the River Thames. The 12-minute display featured a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away in November 2022, with images of her life projected on the London Eye and the words “Thank You Ma’am” spelled out in fireworks. The display also included references to the NHS, the Paralympics, and the COP26 climate summit.
The event was attended by more than 100,000 people who had to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to enter the designated viewing areas. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to take precautions and test themselves before celebrating, as the UK reported a record number of daily cases on New Year’s Eve.
Edinburgh revives Hogmanay after three-year hiatus
The Scottish capital welcomed back its world-famous Hogmanay street party after a three-year absence due to Covid-19. The event, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year, featured live music, dancing, and a spectacular firework display from Edinburgh Castle. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Together Again”, reflecting the desire to reconnect after the pandemic.
The organisers said they had implemented strict Covid-19 measures, including requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry, limiting the capacity to 60,000 people, and providing free rapid tests and masks at the venue. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also urged people to be cautious and sensible, as the country recorded its highest ever number of daily cases on New Year’s Eve.
Sydney dazzles with Harbour Bridge and Opera House fireworks
The Australian city of Sydney, which is known for its spectacular new year fireworks, did not disappoint this year, as it launched more than 8.5 tonnes of pyrotechnics from its iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The 12-minute display, which was watched by more than a million people on the harbour foreshore and millions more on television, featured a rainbow of colours and shapes, as well as a tribute to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
The event was held despite a surge in Covid-19 cases in New South Wales, where Sydney is located, driven by the Omicron variant. The state government decided to go ahead with the fireworks, but imposed some restrictions, such as requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry to some viewing areas, banning dancing and singing, and limiting outdoor gatherings to 30 people.
China celebrates with crowds and ice sculptures
China, where the Covid-19 pandemic originated in late 2019, marked the new year with large crowds and festive events, as it claimed to have largely contained the virus. In Beijing, thousands of people gathered at the Tiananmen Square to watch a flag-raising ceremony and a light show, while in Shanghai, a drone display formed the shape of a giant clock and the words “Happy New Year” in the sky.
In Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province in northeastern China, the annual ice and snow festival opened to the public, featuring massive sculptures of ice and snow carved into towers, buildings, and animals. The festival, which covers an area of about 810,000 square meters, is one of the largest and most popular winter attractions in the world.
Russia and Ukraine toast to peace amid tensions
Russia and Ukraine, which have been locked in a tense standoff over the latter’s border, celebrated the new year with contrasting messages from their leaders. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who addressed the nation from a military base in the Arctic, praised the achievements of the Russian armed forces and vowed to defend the country’s interests and sovereignty. He also raised a glass of champagne with the soldiers and wished them a happy new year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke from a military hospital in Kyiv, thanked the Ukrainian people for their support and solidarity in the face of the Russian threat. He also expressed his hope for peace and dialogue, and urged the international community to help resolve the conflict. He then visited some of the wounded soldiers and congratulated them on the new year.