New Year festivities muted, but with glimpses of hope

Sydney was among the first to welcome 2022 and while most of the world was forced to scale back New Year’s celebrations, Australia’s most populous city went full swagger with a spectacular fireworks show that lit up the harbor.

It was a rare site, as splashy displays were called off at Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, London’s Trafalgar Square and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

New York City still planned for the annual ball drop in Times Square, but with just 15,000 spectators instead of the usual 55,000 – masked up, socially distanced and with proof of vaccination in hand.

Still, South Africa, first to raise the alarm about the fast-spreading Omicron variant and now first to declare its Omicron wave had crested lifted its night time curfew just in time for New Year’s Eve. “We are all about having a good time. We are all in, all in, yeah.”

“Three, two, one: Happy New Year!”

Other parts of the world did their best to welcome a hopefully healthier 2022.

Hong Kong featured fireworks and a concert by the Philharmonic. It was the city’s first in-person celebration since 2018, due to both social unrest and the pandemic.

And in North Korea, which has not confirmed any COVID cases, thousands masked up to watch a stage show and fireworks in Pyongyang. State media in December reported that the country introduced mask-wearing and temperature checks as Omicron spread globally.

And while restrictions scrapped most festivities India, many celebrated in perhaps the most soothing way possible: by witnessing the final sunset of 2021.