Blue and gold fireworks rose in the sky above the Sydney Opera House as they do every year, but the harbor below was a ghost town, quite a spooky consignment for a year not to to lack. No light show will illuminate Beijing from the top of the TV tower. The lions of Trafalfar Square in London will be barricaded, as will Red Square in Moscow. In Rome, crowds will not congregate in St. Peter’s Square, and revelers will not make their annual dive into the Tiber.
The New Year’s Eve ball will fall on Broadway. But instead of thousands of New Yorkers crammed side by side in Times Square, the audience will be a small, preselected group of nurses, doctors and other key workers, with their families six feet apart in socially remote enclosures. . Good riddance, 2020. Hello, 2021. With over 1.7 million dead and 82 million infected worldwide since last New Year’s Eve – but I hope new vaccines can help tame the pandemic – the end of this year is unlike any other in memory.
Angela Merkel, in her 16th New Year’s Eve speech as German Chancellor, said so. “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say: never in the past 15 years have we found the old year so heavy. And never, despite all the worries and some skepticism, have we awaited the news with so much hope. “Germany has banned the sale of fireworks to deter crowds. Authorities in Berlin have said police will” systematically punish offenders. ”
In Australia, where the Sydney Opera House fireworks are televised around the world as the New Year’s first major visual display, movement has been restricted, gatherings banned and internal borders closed. Most people were barred from making their way to Sydney city center on Thursday evening. “What a hell of a year it’s been,” said Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of the State of New South Wales, who includes Sydney. “Hopefully 2021 will be easier for all of us.”
In Madrid’s usually bustling Puerta del Sol Square there won’t be revelers stuffing grapes in their mouths – one for each stroke of midnight, according to tradition. In Britain, where a highly contagious variant of the virus is unleashed, official notice boards ask the public to “see the New Year safely at home”. Barriers have been erected in public places such as Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square in London. In France, where a nighttime curfew will also be in effect, no more than six adults are allowed to gather around the dinner table. But there will be celebrations – small but in style. “I’m going to binge on foie gras and champagne,” said a Parisian. “And I will stay home.”