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New Year’s Eve parties under way around the world following Covid hiatus

People pose for pictures with a 2023 installation as they celebrate the New Year’s eve at Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City (AP)
People pose for pictures with a 2023 installation as they celebrate the New Year’s eve at Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City (AP)

Party-goers in major city centres across Europe and the Middle East are ushering in 2023 with countdowns and fireworks.

The events come as many cities around the globe celebrate New Year’s Eve without restrictions for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday, children crowded a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to meet St Nicholas and enjoy a special performance ahead of the new year.

Taiwan fireworks
A firework display explodes off Taiwan’s tallest skyscraper Taipei101 to usher in the New Year in Taipei (AP)

Meanwhile, some soldiers who said they usually celebrate the holiday with family decided to stay in the trenches to defend their country.

Others in Ukraine returned to the capital, Kyiv, to spend New Year’s Eve with their loved ones.

As Russian attacks continue to target power supplies, leaving millions without electricity, no big celebrations were planned. A curfew was to be in place as the clock struck midnight.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron delivered “a message of unity and trust” in a televised address on Saturday.

The Champs Elysees
Party-goers watch a sound and light show projected on the Arc de Triomphe as they celebrate the New Year on the Champs Elysees (AP)

Referencing the war in Ukraine several times, Mr Macron also sent a message to France’s “Ukrainian friends”, saying: “We respect and admire you.”

He added: “During the coming year, we will be unfailingly at your side. We will help you until victory and we will be together to build a just and lasting peace. Count on France and count on Europe.”

Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, was bringing in 2023 with street festivities and fireworks. At St Antuan Catholic Church on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian thoroughfare Istiklal Avenue, dozens of Christians prayed for the new year and marked former Pope Benedict XVI’s passing.

Burj Khalifa
Fireworks explode at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, during the New Year’s Eve celebration in Dubai (AP)

The Pacific nation of Kiribati was the first country to greet the new year, with the clock ticking into 2023 one hour ahead of neighbours including New Zealand.

In Auckland, large crowds gathered below the Sky Tower, where a 10-second countdown to midnight preceded fireworks.

The celebrations in New Zealand’s largest city were well-received after Covid-19 forced their cancellation a year ago.

Indonesia New Year
Celebrations under way in Jakarta, Indonesia (AP)

There was a scare in the North Island coastal city of Tauranga, about 140 miles from Auckland, when a bouncy castle was blown about 100 yards. Tauranga City Council reported one person was taken to hospital and four people were treated on site.

More than one million people crowded along Sydney’s waterfront for a multimillion dollar celebration based around the themes of diversity and inclusion.

More than 7,000 fireworks were launched from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a further 2,000 from the nearby Opera House.

Brazil Yemanja New Year
A woman places flower offerings in the waters of Urca beach for the African goddess of the sea Yemanja, as part of New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AP)

It was the “party Sydney deserves”, the city’s events and festivals chief Stephen Gilby told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“We have had a couple of fairly difficult years; we’re absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people back to the foreshores of Sydney Harbour for Sydney’s world-famous New Year’s Eve celebrations,” he said.

In Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, a family-friendly fireworks display along the Yarra River as dusk fell preceded a second session at midnight.

Thailand New Year’s Eve
Fireworks explode over the Chao Phraya River during New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand (AP)

Authorities in military-ruled Myanmar announced a suspension of its normal four-hour curfew in the country’s three biggest cities so residents could celebrate New Year’s Eve.

However, opponents of army rule urged people to avoid public gatherings, fearing that security forces might stage a bombing or other attack and blame it on them.

Concerns about the Ukraine war and the economic shocks it has spawned across the globe were felt in Tokyo, where Shigeki Kawamura has seen better times but said he needed a free, hot meal this New Year.

Russia New Year’s Eve
A woman in Russian kokoshnik takes a photo at a Christmas Market set up in Red Square, Moscow, prior to its closure for celebrations on the New Year’s Eve (AP)

“I hope the war will be over in Ukraine so prices will stabilise,” he said. “Nothing good has happened for the people since we’ve had Mr Kishida,” he said, referring to Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

He was one of several hundred people huddled in the cold in a line circling a Tokyo park to receive free New Year meals of sukiyaki, or slices of beef cooked in sweet sauce, with rice.

“I hope the new year will bring work and self-reliance,” said Takaharu Ishiwata, who lives in a group home and has not found lucrative work in years.

Kenji Seino, who heads the meal programme for the homeless Tenohasi, which means “bridge of hands”, said the number of people coming for meals was rising, with jobs becoming harder to find after the coronavirus pandemic hit, and prices going up.