New Year traditions around the world
NEW: South Korea and Japan ring in the new year
A spectacular pyrotechnics display erupts above Sydney’s harbor
New Zealand bids farewell to a year of natural disasters with fireworks in Auckland
London promises a special fireworks display for the year in which it hosts the Olympic Games
(CNN) — As the clock strikes midnight around the world Saturday, people are ushering in a new year with fireworks and festivities, purpose and promises — and a string of resolutions they’ll no doubt break.
First to ring in 2012 were those in the western Pacific, where the new year arrived for residents of Samoa, Tokelau and the Christmas Islands at 5 a.m. ET.
Samoa and Tokelau — historically the last to celebrate new year — reveled in being the first to party this time round, after skipping west across the international dateline, missing out 30 December entirely in the process, in a move intended to boost trade.
New Zealand was next to bid farewell to a year that brought more than its share of natural disasters, with fireworks bursting through a blanket of fog to light up Auckland’s Sky Tower.
Dazzling pyrotechnics above Sydney’s harbor got 2012 off to a spectacular start in Australia, with huge crowds gathered to watch.
From there, the midnight revelry is working its way west, with more fireworks over Moscow, London and places in between.
In South Korea, the Boshingak bell in downtown Seoul chimed 33 times to celebrate the occasion, while in Japan, many families ate a bowl of long noodles together to symbolize the bridge from one year to the next.
In Laos and Cambodia, Buddhist temples will strike their gongs 108 times to cast out 108 types of human weakness.
The celebrations will move across Europe, where as many as 250,000 people are expected to throng the banks of the River Thames in London to watch the night light up as the U.K. capital rings in the new year with a massive fireworks display.
London has much to be optimistic about. It will be home to the Summer Olympics in 2012, and the pyrotechnics will herald “the most extraordinary and exciting year we are likely to see in our lifetime in this city,” the city mayor, Boris Johnson, has promised.
In Spain, many will swallow a grape with each stroke of the midnight bell. Twelve grapes, 12 tolls, hopes of 12 months of good fortune.
North and South America will be the last continents to usher in 2012, with small parties and massive celebrations.
Many will raise a toast to the new year, with a distinctive “drop” at midnight — from an oversized guitar in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee, to a drag queen in Key West, Florida.
One of the most watched such events will be in New York City, where organizers estimate hundreds of thousands will pack Times Square while more than 1 billion people tune in on television.
Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Drake will perform. But the true star of the celebrations will be an 11,875-pound ball.
And when it descends in a shower of confetti, revelers will grab a partner to dance or kiss.
Then, in ear-deafening roars, they will belt out the first verses of “Should auld acquaintance be forgot.”
Perhaps, some will resolve to learn the rest of the song.