Arts, Culture & Media

A late bell, silent prayers and the world's largest fireworks show greet the new year

Sydney New Years.jpg

Fireworks explode over Sydney Harbour at midnight, ushering in the new year on January 1, 2014.

Credit:

Jason Reed/Reuters

Australia got 2014 started with a bang — literally.

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

Nearly eight tons of fireworks exploded in 12 seconds over Sydney Harbour. If you love big fireworks, and also have short attention span, Australia was the place for you. You could hit the sack at 12:01 a.m., completely fulfilled, knowing you've seen the best fireworks display in the world.

That is, unless you stayed up another seven hours when Dubai tried to break the record for the world's largest fireworks show. Ever.  

Organizers lit up the city's coastline with a flying falcon made of fireworks. They also created bursts of lights to look like a massive United Arab Emirates flag.

The six-minute extravaganza included 500,000 fireworks fired from 400 locations across the city, all synchronized by 100 computers. Guinness World Record officials were on hand to measure the scale of the event.

Forget the fireworks, though. The largest party is expected to once again be in Rio de Janeiro — more than 2 million people at Copacabana Beach.

In Japan, they celebrated in a more subdued fashion. Many people were praying at midnight. They tossed coins as offerings at shrines, wishing for health, wealth and happiness. As per custom, temple bells rang the customary 108 times, for the 108 causes of suffering, according to Buddhism.

In Israel, New Year's celebrations were also more muted. Jews celebrate New Year's on Rosh Hashana, usually in September. January 1 isn't a public holiday in Israel, so much of the nation can't, or probably shouldn't, stay up too late.

There are also no official celebrations planned for Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

But in the Indonesia capital of Jakarta, 2 million people were estimated to be taking part in street parties. Over in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh, it was a different story. Islamic clerics prohibited Muslims from celebrating New Year's Eve.

In Iran, the real celebration begins in March with the pre-Islamic Persian new year's festival.

In Kuala Lampur, they rang in the New Year at midnight, or around midnight. They have their own version of the Times Square ball drop — a massive bell that marks the New Year. The bell keeper can't start ringing the 117-year-old bell until dignitaries — who like to talk — have finished their speeches. Some years, the bell ringing has been 10 minutes late.  

In New York, the ball will drop at exactly midnight, and one minute later, New Yorkers will have a new mayor. Bill de Blasio will be sworn in at 12:01 Wednesday morning.