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World Welcomes 2015 With Cheers, Fireworks, Hopes

  • VOA News

People around the world welcomed the New Year with fireworks, glitter, song and dance, and well-wishing. At least for this day, the world seemed to have one unique goal - to join in celebration, although it was subdued in Indonesia, where people mourned those killed in this week's AirAsia plane crash. World leaders took the opportunity to broadcast messages of peace.

The United States welcomed in New Year's Day 2015 with the traditional celebration in New York City's Times Square.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers gathered in the city's iconic tourist attraction to watch Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family push the button that dropped a giant crystal ball one minute before midnight.

In New York City, the theme of this year's party was ''the gift of fortitude."

"Our special guest this year is the International Rescue Committee, which honors and helps refugees and displaced people from around the world. And they are folks who show a lot of fortitude and a lot of strength in the face of adversity," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.

New Year's celebrations were also taking place in many other cities across the United States located in different time zones.

Hours earlier on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Londoners gathered on the banks of the River Thames to watch a spectacular fireworks display over the Houses of Parliament, as the iconic Big Ben clock chimed at the stroke of midnight.

Further south, the Brazilian tourist attraction of Rio de Janeiro was expecting more than one million revelers to crowd its Copacabana Beach for rock concerts on three stages.

In New Zealand, a giant clock on Auckland's landmark Sky Tower counted down the minutes until the New Year, before fireworks launched from the tower lit the nighttime sky.

Splashy bursts of color from the fireworks filled the sky over Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, while the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai readied what it said would be the largest-ever LED-illuminated facade on the world's tallest building.

China's capital, Beijing, offered winter sports demonstrations and art performances in its Olympic stadium, known as the Bird's Nest. The four-hour show was meant to showcase China's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. President Xi Jinping called for world peace in his New Year's message.

"We hope sincerely that all countries can work together to ensure that all people will be free from the torture of hunger and cold, and that all families will be free from the threat of wars. All the world’s children must flourish under the sun of peace," said Xi.

China's impoverished neighbor, North Korea, staged a 15-minute fireworks display in the capital, Pyongyang, as part of the New Year celebrations. In Japan's capital, Tokyo, revelers welcomed 2015 by releasing hundreds of balloons.

In Europe, Pope Francis reiterated his trademark defense of the poor in the New Year's Eve vespers service in St. Peter's Basilica.

"Without a doubt, the degree of corruption revealed in recent days requires a serious and conscious conversion of heart for a spiritual and moral rebirth, as well as for a commitment to build a more just and brotherly city, where the poor, the weak and the marginalized are at the center of our concerns and our daily actions," said Francis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned burgeoning racist movements in Europe. She also had a tough message for Russia.

"There is no question at all that we want security in Europe together with Russia, not against Russia. But equally, there is no question of the fact that in Europe we cannot and we will not accept a so-called right of the strongest to violate international law," said Merkel.

French President Francois Hollande called for unity and mutual respect among different ethnic and religious groups.

"Concerning the increasing and worrying threats of terrorism, sectarianism, fundamentalism, it's not by dividing ourselves or by stigmatizing a religion, or by conceding to fear that we will protect ourselves. It's by defending firmly our common rules: secularism, the republican order, the security of individuals, the dignity of women," said Hollande.

Around the world, ordinary people expressed wishes and hopes that the coming year will bring happiness and prosperity to all.

Zlatica Hoke contributed to this report.

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