For the first time since 1907, a crowd of many thousands did not watch the proceedings live
The famous Times Square in New York, where thousands of celebrants usually gather on New Year’s Eve, was almost empty this time because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the festive program did take place.
According to tradition, the arrival of the new year 2021 heralded the fall of the crystal ball, which for the first time since 1907 was not watched by a crowd of spectators.
Instead, the process was broadcast live on the Internet and on television.
The New Year’s Eve telecast also featured such stars as Gloria Gaynor, rapper Pitbull, Anitta, Jennifer Lopez, and many others.
The entrance to Times Square in New York City was blocked off.
Only a small group of invited guests, including health care workers and other professionals on the front lines of the pandemic, were allowed to watch the traditional New Year’s Eve ball drop in the city’s main square.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said everyone else should stay home and watch the New Year’s Eve program on TV.
Normally on Dec. 31, tens of thousands of people fill the blocks around Times Square, standing in the cold for hours, waiting for the crystal ball to slowly descend into the last seconds of the year.
More than 25,000 New Yorkers died of coronavirus infection this past year.
As daily case counts in the U.S. remain disappointing, bars, restaurants, and other crowded places are closing or operating with severe restrictions.
In Las Vegas, Boston, and other cities, holiday fireworks displays have been canceled. Organizers of the annual First Night Arts Festival in Boston had six hours of online music on New Year’s Eve.
Celebrations were canceled in other cities around the world as well.
As every year, the skies above the Sydney Opera House lit up with blue and gold lights, but this time the waterfronts were unusually deserted.
Throughout the world, the hard year that was passing was being farewelled in an atmosphere of restraint and precaution.
There was no traditional light show at the TV tower in Beijing. Trafalgar Square in London, Red Square in Moscow, and the Puerta del Sol in Madrid were closed.
St. Peter’s Square in Rome did not have the usual crowds of celebrants, the Pope did not hold a celebratory mass, and the traditional New Year’s jump into the Tiber was also abandoned.
Some cities, like Sydney, decided to set off fireworks over empty streets. Others, like London and Paris, canceled fireworks altogether. Paris, Rome, and Istanbul have curfews.
Since last New Year’s Eve, 82 million people worldwide have been infected and more than 1.7 million have died. While the advent of vaccines offers hope for positive change, the year ends on a very grim note.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this in her 16th New Year’s address.
“I can say without exaggeration: never in the past 15 years has the outgoing year been so difficult. And never have we looked to the coming year with such hope, despite all the excitement and some skepticism,” she said.
Germany has banned the sale of fireworks to avoid crowds in the streets. Authorities in Berlin warned that violators would be punished.
But in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began a year ago, thousands of people gathered in the streets to celebrate the outgoing year.
Traditionally, hundreds of people gathered outside the ancient customs building, one of the most popular places to celebrate the New Year. As the clock struck midnight, many people launched balloons into the sky, applauded, and shouted greetings.
The police kept a close watch on order. A few people were warned to wear masks if they wanted to stay. Overall, however, the celebration took place in a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.
In Wuhan, there have been virtually no cases of infection for several months now, and vaccination of certain groups of people has begun in recent days.
In North Korea, the virus did not interfere with the celebrations. State channels showed people wearing masks gathering in Pyongyang’s main square to watch a concert and fireworks.
In Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, where Spaniards usually count down the last seconds to midnight by eating a grapevine for each beat of the clock, barricades were set up.