In London, the silence that has mostly enveloped Big Ben since renovation work began on it in August 2017 will be broken tonight as the temporary bells ring out from inside the scaffolding
As with Edinburgh, Brexit appears to be very much in the background to the shape of this year’s celebrations in the city.
London’s sold-out New Year’s Eve fireworks show will be a celebration of the capital’s relationship with Europe, Sadiq Khan has said.
As part of the mayor’s London Is Open campaign, his office said the event will send a message of support to the more than one million European citizens living in the capital.
Khan has previously expressed his backing for a People’s Vote and has voiced his concerns over the effects of a no-deal Brexit on the capital.
The display will bring together more than 100,000 spectators to watch the largest annual firework display in Europe, including eight tonnes of fireworks.
Of course, the new year has also hit other Australian cities including Melbourne… not that there seems to be any sort of rivalry or anything about how they ring it in…
New year on the east coast of Australia
New Year’s Eve isn’t celebrated that widely in mainland China, where the lunar New Year in February is a more important holiday, but countdown events were being held in major cities and some of the faithful headed to Buddhist temples for bell-ringing and prayers.
The city of Beijing was holding a gala with VIP guests at the main site of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The event looked ahead to the 2022 Winter Games, which also will be held in the Chinese capital.
Additional police were deployed in parts of Shanghai, where a New Year’s Eve stampede in 2014 killed 36 people. In Beijing, outdoor revelers had to brave temperatures well below freezing.
President Xi Jingping, in a message broadcast at the top of the evening news, outlined the country’s achievements over the past year and said that by hosting a series of multinational meetings in 2018, “we have put forward China’s proposals and sent out China’s voice.”
In Hong Kong, festive lights on the city’s iconic skyscrapers provided the backdrop for a fireworks, music and light show over Victoria Harbor on a chilly evening. About 300,000 people were expected to line the waterfront.
The new year is also nearing in Korea, where, after an eventful year that saw three inter-Korean summits and the easing of tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, South Koreans enter 2019 with hopes that the hard-won detente will expand into a stable peace.
Thousands of South Koreans were expected to fill the streets of the capital, Seoul, for a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near City Hall to usher in the new year.
Dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight include famous surgeon Lee Guk-jong, who successfully operated on a North Korean soldier who escaped to South Korea in 2017 in a hail of bullets fired by his comrades.
Elsewhere, about 10,000 people were expected to attend the tolling of a “peace bell” at Imjingak, a pavilion near the border with North Korea.
In the north, Leader Kim Jong Un is expected to give his annual address on New Year’s Day laying out the country’s priorities for the year ahead.
The speech is often the best gauge of what the North Korean leadership is focused on and what tone it will take in its dealings with the outside world.
Kim’s speech it will be parsed carefully for clues about his thinking on denuclearization talks with Washington and a second summit with President Donald Trump, relations with South Korea, and North Korea’s efforts to get out from under international sanctions as it tries to build its domestic economy.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has issued a bleak New Year’s message that called climate change an existential threat and warned that “it’s time to seize our last best chance.”
He noted growing intolerance, geo-political divisions and inequality, resulting in people “questioning a world in which a handful of people hold the same wealth as half of humanity.”
“But there are also reasons for hope,” he said. “As we begin this New Year, let’s resolve to confront threats, defend human dignity and build a better future together.”
Linking the fate of nations like Kiribati with New Year’s resolutions for a moment, the Extinction Rebellion climate protest group is urging people to ‘Rebel for Life on Earth’ as their resolution.
From 1st to 7th January 2019, it is inviting anyone interested to take part in Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Rebel for Life on Earth’ campaign.
Douglas Rogers, one of Extinction Rebellion organisers, said:
Complementing Extinction Rebellion’s nonviolent peaceful protests which aim to highlight the stark reality of government and media inaction in the face of human-caused ecological collapse, this January we are asking people to take time to reflect on their personal and collective relationship with different aspects of the foundations of life on earth.
We’re still waiting (and might be in perpetuity) on the first images to come in showing New Year on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, the first in the world to welcome the new year.
Made up of low-lying atolls which straggle along the equator, celebrations are likely to have been on the muted side however after its people spent 2018 on the frontline of the battle against climate change.
Much of the nation’s land mass, occupied by 110,000 people, is endangered by rising seas which have inundated coastal villages. The rising oceans have turned fresh water sources brackish, imperilling communities and raising doubts the nation will exist at the next New Year.
Former President Anote Tong said the only future for Kiribati may be mass migration.
The new year was welcomed in the capital, Tarawa, with church services and mostly quiet private celebrations, reports the Associated press.
If you’re curious about Kiribati, or indeed, care about the very real existential challenges it faces in the decades ahead you could do worse than read this piece from the Guardian’s Kate Lyons about Tong’s work to advocate for more robust action on climate change.
Next up is Australia, where the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra will be celebrating in around an hour and half from now.
On the other side of the world, meanwhile, preparations are at an advanced stage for what is still one of the best known and oldest events: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
As the clock ticks down towards Brexit, organisers say this year’s event in the Scottish capital celebrates the ties between Scotland and Europe as the UK prepares to leave the EU in 2019.
Bands, DJs, street performers, dancers, acrobats and fire eaters from Scotland and mainland Europe will be performing at the street party, which starts at 7.30pm.
There will be music across three stages, with Gerry Cinnamon headlining the Waverley stage, Judge Jules headlining the DJ stage in Castle Street and Elephant Sessions on stage in South St David Street.
Franz Ferdinand will headline the Concert in the Gardens at the foot of Castle Rock, supported by Metronomy and Free Love, while some of the country’s top ceilidh bands will play at Ceilidh under the Castle.
The three-day festival opened on Sunday with the traditional torchlight procession, culminating in Holyrood Park where the outline of Scotland was lit up.
Something else to look out for now in 2019? A return trip to the UK by Donald Trump.
The possibility was floated in an interview this morning with the BBC by the US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson.
Asked whether the state visit promised last year by Theresa May could be rescheduled to coincide with a commemoration of the end of the second world war in May, Johnson told Nick Robinson on the Today Programme: “Between you and me, I think that would be a good time.”
Which also (possibly?) means the return of…