The backstory: Since the pandemic began in 2020, New Year's celebrations worldwide have been dampened by COVID. Lockdowns and restrictions have prevented people from gathering and celebrating many events.
More recently: COVID continues to wreak havoc all over, especially in China at the moment. But, this past year, many countries in the Asia-Pacific that still had strict COVID rules have been winding those down, including China's recent pivot away from its zero-COVID stance. This means party time, and people can get together to celebrate again.
The development: Ringing in 2023, the entire world saw major celebrations like they haven't since 2019. In China, celebrations were held at the Great Wall in Beijing, and Shanghai authorities stopped traffic near the Bund so people could get together outside. Other countries joined in, with Australia seeing 7,000 fireworks launched from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and another 2,000 from the Sydney Opera House, as reported by The Associated Press. In Ukraine, many people returned to Kyiv for quiet celebrations with family and friends, and St Nicholas even greeted children in a crowded metro station in Kharkiv. In the US, there was the famous Times Square Ball Drop in New York City, where Times Square saw a lit-up ball covered in 2,700 Waterford crystals fall at midnight.
"2023 is about resurgence – resurgence of the world after COVID-19 and after the war in Ukraine. We want it to end," said Arjun Singh, who was celebrating in New York's Times Square.
"During the coming year, we will be unfailingly at your side," French President Emmanuel Macron said in his New Year's address, pledging ongoing support for Ukraine. "We will help you until victory, and we will be together to build a just and lasting peace. Count on France and count on Europe."
"We have had a couple of fairly difficult years; we're absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people back to the foreshores of Sydney Harbor for Sydney's world-famous New Year's Eve celebrations," said Australian event producer Stephen Gilby to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"As the new year begins, we seem to see the light," said Chinese salesperson Hong Xinyu at a countdown show in Beijing. "We are hopeful that there will be more freedom in the future."