Page last updated at 06:17 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

In pictures: New year festivities

Fireworks explode above the Sky Tower in the New Zealand city of Auckland

The first major city to mark the start of 2009 was Auckland, New Zealand, with a spectacular display of fireworks from its Sky Tower.

Fireworks explode over Sydney harbour

More than one million people turned out in the Australian city of Sydney for its largest-ever pyrotechnics show.

Hong Kong revellers wear masks saying "Happy 2009"

In Hong Kong, half a million people gathered around the historic harbour for the new year countdown.

Thai performers in traditional dress carry candles in a Buddhist ceremony in Bangkok

In Thailand, performers in traditional dress carried candles during a Buddhist ceremony in the capital, Bangkok.

Malaysian people dance in front of a laser and water show in Petaling Jaya.

In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, party-goers danced in front of a laser and water show in the early hours of 2009.

Women pray at Tokyo's Zojoji Buddhist temple

In Japan, many went to Tokyo's Zojoji Buddhist temple to offer a prayer at the end of the year.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a New Year's Eve vespers service in Peter's Basilica in Rome, 31 December 2008

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI urged people not to be afraid during uncertain times, but to help each other.

In London, revellers opposite the London Eye prepare to see in the New Year, 31 December 2008

In London, 400,000 attended a fireworks display and watched video messages from the likes of London Mayor Boris Johnson and Homer Simpson, while Elton John performed at the O2 Arena.

Riot police stand in front of the Christmas tree outside the parliament building in Athens during New Year celebrations and simultaneous demonstrations, 1 January 2009

In Greece, Palestinian protesters staged a demonstration near an outdoor concert in Athens during New Year celebrations, chanting slogans and burning Israeli, US and EU flags.

Revellers in their underwear, Valencia, Spain, 31 December 2008

In Valencia, Spain, revellers took part in an unusual new year's tradition - a red underwear race.

Bill and Hillary Clinton embrace in New York's Times Square

Bill and Hillary Clinton joined the kissing crowds in New York's Times Square, after the ball dropped at midnight.

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