New Zealanders and South Pacific island nations were among the first to celebrate at midnight. In New Zealand's Auckland, explosions of red, gold and white burst over the Sky Tower, while tens of thousands of people danced and sang in the streets below. In Christchurch, partyers shrugged off a minor earthquake that struck just before 10 p.m.
Multicolored starbusts and gigantic sparklers lit the midnight sky over Sydney Harbor in a pyrotechnics show witnessed by 1.5 million spectators.
"This has got to be the best place to be in the world tonight," Marc Wilson said.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor to watch fireworks explode from the roofs of 10 of the city's most famous buildings.
In Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, an estimated 55,000 people packed a square in front of the city's elegant French colonial-style opera house for their first New Year's countdown blowout, complete with dizzying strobe lights and thumping techno music spun by international DJs.
Vietnamese typically save their biggest celebrations for Tet, the lunar new year that begins on Feb. 3. But in recent years, Western influence has started seeping into Vietnamese culture among teens, who have no memory of war or poverty and are eager to find a new reason to party.
At Japan's Zojoji temple in Tokyo, monks chanted and revelers marked the arrival of the new year by releasing silver balloons with notes inside. The temple's giant 15-ton bell rang in the background.
In Seoul, South Korea, more than 80,000 people celebrated by watching a traditional bell ringing ceremony and fireworks, while North Korea on Saturday welcomed the new year with a push for better ties with its neighbor, warning that war "will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust."
At the stroke of midnight in Cuba, state television broadcast images of troops at Havana's Morro Castle fort firing 21 salvos of a cannon in honor of the 52d anniversary of former President Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution. The live broadcast from the fort was interspersed with images of Castro throughout his decades at the helm of the communist island and some of his brother and current president, Raul Castro. After the brief broadcast, state television resumed its string of holiday salsa programs as some Havana residents fired small firecrackers outside.
In Dubai, the world's tallest building was awash in fireworks from the base to its needle-like spire nearly a half-mile (828 meters) above. Sparkling silver rays shot out from the Burj Khalifa in a 10-minute display.
In Rio de Janeiro, more than 2 million people gathered on Copacabana beach's white sand for 20 minutes of fireworks, music and the unveiling of the logo for the 2016 Olympics. Traffic was shut down along the neighborhood's main thoroughfares for much of the day in preparation for a party rivaled only by Carnival. Revelers drank and danced to samba played on stages along the 2.5-mile beach, and at midnight many waded into the water, jumping over seven waves for good luck.
In France, police were on alert for terror attacks and for celebrations getting out of hand. Rampaging youths typically set fire to scores of vehicles on New Year's Eve. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said 53,820 police officers were mobilized, 6,000 more than usual.
France has been extra vigilant following threats from al-Qaida and the kidnapping of five French citizens in Niger.
Italians rang in the new year with illegal fireworks, shot off in squares and alleys — a tradition that usually results in numerous hand and eye injuries. Naples police Chief Santi Giuffre appealed to citizens to "give up or at least cut back on this" practice.
In central London, an estimated quarter-million revelers saw in the new year as red, white and blue fireworks — the colors of the Union Jack — shot from around the London Eye, lighting up the sky over the River Thames.
In Scotland, the four-day Hogmanay festival began Thursday night with a torch-lit procession through the streets of Edinburgh. Around 25,000 people took part, marching to the top of a hill to watch the burning of a model Viking ship. Hogmanay is derived from the winter solstice festival celebrated by the Vikings.
The Dutch celebrate by eating deep-fried dough balls covered in powdered sugar and washed down with champagne. The Danes jump off chairs to "leap into the new year." And the Austrians twirl in the new year with a waltz, carrying radios so they can dance to Strauss' "Blue Danube" as the clock strikes midnight.
Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.
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