NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of revelers crowded into New York City's Times Square to watch the crystal-covered ball make its annual descent, ringing in the start of 2013.
The festivities joined a slew of others around the globe, from fireworks in Sydney and Hong Kong to the first public countdown in years in Myanmar.
New York City's countdown was the first in decades without television host Dick Clark, who died in April. One of the crystal panels on the ball was engraved with his name.
Yvonne Gomez, a 53-year-old physician from Grand Forks, N.D., beamed with pleasure as the ball descended.
"I couldn't begin the new year in a more beautiful way," she said pointing to her husband, Greg Halverson, a 63-year-old potato farmer. "I married him two weeks ago and here we are in the middle of Times Square celebrating the new year."
Security in Times Square was tight, with a mass of uniformed police and plainclothes officers assigned to blend into the crowd. With police Commissioner Raymond Kelly proclaiming that Times Square would be the "safest place in the world on New Year's Eve," officers used barriers to prevent overcrowding and checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags.
Syracuse University student Taylor Nanz, 18, said she and a friend had been standing in Times Square since 1:20 p.m. Monday. They hadn't moved from their spot because "if you leave, you lose your place," she said, shivering behind an iron barricade with a clear view of 1 Times Square, the building where the crystal ball hovered.
"It's the first time - and the last time," she said.
Elsewhere hours earlier, lavish fireworks displays lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai, multicolored fireworks danced early Tuesday up and down the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. In Russia, spectators filled Moscow's iconic Red Square as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin.
Organizers said about 90,000 people gathered in a large field Yangon, Myanmar, for their first chance to do what much of the world does every Dec. 31 - watch a countdown. The reformist government that took office in 2011 in the country, long under military rule, threw its first public New Year's celebration in decades.
"We feel like we are in a different world," said Yu Thawda, a university student who went with 3 of her friends.
Parts of Europe held scaled-back festivities and street parties, the mood a bit restrained - if hopeful - for a 2013 that is projected to be a sixth straight year of recession amid Greece's worst economic crisis since World War II. About 22,000 revelers in the Madrid square celebrated the arrival of the new year under umbrellas as rain fell steadily.
London, the often soggy British capital, was dry and clear, though, as the familiar chimes of the clock inside the Big Ben tower counted down the final seconds of 2012 and a dazzling display of fireworks lit the skies above Parliament Square. People cheered as the landmarks were bathed in the light of the display, which included streamers shot out of the London Eye wheel and blazing rockets launched from the banks of the River Thames.
There were impromptu fireworks displays throughout much of London as people remembered a year that saw Olympics glory, the queen's diamond jubilee and the announcement that Prince William and the former Kate Middleton are expecting their first child - welcome news that offset some of the economic gloom.
To the north in Scotland, 85,000 people gathered near the base of Edinburgh Castle for the wild Hogmaney celebration, helped by five soundstages featuring a number of top bands.
Elsewhere, the atmosphere of celebration was muted with concern.
Hotels, clubs and other sites in New Delhi, the Indian capital, canceled festivities after the death of a rape victim on Saturday touched off days of mourning and reflection about women's safety. In the Philippines, where many are recovering from devastation from a recent typhoon, a health official danced to South Korean rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style" video in an effort to stop revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers, which maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year.
And even in Times Square, some revelers checked their cellphones to keep up with news of lawmakers' efforts to skirt the fiscal cliff combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts that threatened to reverberate globally. And the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and Superstorm Sandy mingled into the memories of 2012.
"This has been a very eventful year, on many levels," Denise Norris said as she and her husband, the Rev. Urie Norris, surveyed the crowd seeking to jam Times Square for a countdown show with Ryan Seacrest as host and musical acts including Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Neon Trees, Flo Rida and Pitbull.
About a block away, Army Sgt. Clint Evanoff waited in a black suit, red vest and red tie to get into Times Square with a couple of his friends from his unit at Fort Drum, N.Y. Evanoff, 20, is scheduled to leave for Afghanistan, his first deployment, in about two weeks.
Looking ahead to the new year, "I'm just hoping to make it back," he said.
Elsewhere, too, hopes for 2013 were a mix of personal and political. In Boston, communications writer and editor Colin O'Brien, 25, said he was optimistic that the nation had realized it was time to make tough decisions about its finances and policy and that there might be "more common ground than people are willing to admit or accept." In Harrisburg, Pa., warehouse worker Adam Gassner, 43, had more internal goals: "hoping to continue to get myself back on my feet."
Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York; Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa.; Jay Lindsay in Boston; Aye Aye Win in Yangon, Myanmar; Rod McGuirk in Sydney; Silvia Hui in London; Ashok Sharma in New Delhi; and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.