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East Asia Rings in the New Year

Fireworks crackled in the skies over New Zealand Tuesday in celebration of the start of the year 2014.

New Zealand kicked off worldwide celebrations of the new year, a time seen as an opportunity for renewal and change.

Crowds have gathered in public spaces in major cities across the Asia-Pacific region to ring in the new year with music, fireworks and revelry.

In Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, some 1.6 million people were expected at a celebration that, for the first time in a decade, includes fireworks launched from the sails of the city's famed waterfront opera house.

In Japan, some celebrators are eating noodles and seafood -- thought to bring good luck in 2014 -- and offering prayers at Buddhist shrines and temples.

Celebrations are expected to be muted in the Philippines, where officials say some 260 people have been injured by fireworks or stray bullets in the days leading up to New Year's Eve. The mood is also somber in areas still recovering from Haiyan, a November typhoon that killed thousands of people.

Big celebrations are planned in major cities across the world, including Moscow, London, and New York City, where some one million people are expected to gather in Times Square to watch a giant ball drop at the stroke of midnight.

Cape Town, South Africa, is set for a particularly poignant celebration, as it will include a tribute to anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who died December 5.

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