Glittering fireworks lit the night skies from Sydney to New York and capitals across the globe, as tens of millions of revelers welcomed 2012 with star-studded celebrations, prayer, and hopes for a better future.
Skies erupted over Moscow's Red Square, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Rome.
At the Vatican, Pope Benedict urged tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims to pray "for peace throughout the world, for reconciliation and forgiveness" in regions of conflict. He also called for "a more just and equitable distribution of the world's resources."
Thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo's Tahir Square, carrying photographs of protesters killed in the uprising that ousted long-time leader Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his family celebrated the new year in Hawaii - the president's birthplace and one of the last places on the globe to welcome 2012. Hours earlier, an estimated one million revelers in New York City packed Times Square to witness the descent of the city's giant ball as midnight struck.
Southeast Asian countries were among the first to welcome the new year with fireworks, laser lights, street parties and outdoor performances. Hong Kong and Sydney set the standard with glittering extravaganzas in their harbors, while the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai hosted lavish light shows in their central squares.
In Tokyo, celebrations were overshadowed by memories of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated large swaths of northeastern Japan, leaving 20,000 people dead or missing.
In his New Year's message to the Japanese people, Emperor Akihito expressed hope that everyone will cooperate to rebuild Japanese society.
North Korea ushered in 2012 with a new leader and public vows to build "a powerful country of talented people." The official Korean Central News Agency said the Korean people "are full of determination to achieve a proud victory in this year's effort for building a thriving nation."