London, the host of the 2012 Olympics, kicked off its fireworks display with a recording of the moment the British capital learned it would host the Games. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the River Thames to watch the fireworks extravaganza.
Berlin hosted another spectacular display in the night sky at the Brandenburg Gate.
Across the Atlantic in Rio de Janeiro, millions of people took to Copacabana beach to watch the sky light up as they waited for the new year.
Lady Gaga and Placido Domingo were among the star-studded lineup for the festivities in New York where a reported million people waited for the ball to drop in Times Square.
Southeast Asian countries were among the first to welcome the New Year with fireworks, laser lights, street parties and outdoor performances. Sydney, Australia and Hong Kong set the standard with glittering extravaganzas in their harbors. Chinese main cities Beijing and Shanghai hosted lavish light shows in their central squares.
The mood was somewhat less cheerful in Tokyo where celebrations were overshadowed by memories of January’s earthquake and tsunami.
In his New Year’s message to the Japanese people, Emperor Akihito expressed hope that everyone will cooperate to rebuild Japanese society after the natural disasters of 2011.