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Revelers bid adieu to a year of conflicts, celebrity deaths

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/31/2016 By The Associated Press
Fireworks explode around the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as New Year's celebrations get underway in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) © The Associated Press Fireworks explode around the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as New Year's celebrations get underway in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

As 2016 draws to a close, revelers around the world are bidding a weary adieu to a year filled with political surprises, prolonged conflicts and deaths of legendary celebrities.

Fireworks cascade under the Sydney Harbour Bridge as New Year's celebrations are underway in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) © The Associated Press Fireworks cascade under the Sydney Harbour Bridge as New Year's celebrations are underway in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

How people are ushering in the new year:

A woman prays in front of lanterns to celebrate the new year at Chogye Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon). © The Associated Press A woman prays in front of lanterns to celebrate the new year at Chogye Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon).

AUSTRALIA

Fireworks explode from Auckland's Sky Tower as the new year is welcomed to New Zealand, Jan 1, 2017. (Peter Meecham/New Zealand Herald via AP) © The Associated Press Fireworks explode from Auckland's Sky Tower as the new year is welcomed to New Zealand, Jan 1, 2017. (Peter Meecham/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Sydney sent up a dazzling tribute to 2016's fallen icons with a New Year's Eve fireworks display honoring the late singer David Bowie and late actor Gene Wilder, becoming the first major city to bid a bittersweet adieu to a turbulent year.

Technicians prepare a stage that will be used in the New Years celebration, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press Technicians prepare a stage that will be used in the New Years celebration, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The glittering display over Sydney's famed harbor and bridge featured Saturn and star-shaped fireworks set to "Space Oddity," the classic song by Bowie — one of the seemingly endless parade of beloved entertainers who died in 2016.

Fireworks explode above Singapore's financial district at the stroke of midnight to mark the New Year's celebrations on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) © The Associated Press Fireworks explode above Singapore's financial district at the stroke of midnight to mark the New Year's celebrations on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Wilder was also honored as the bridge lit up in a rainbow of colors while a song from Wilder's famed film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" played.

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2016 file photo, the Las Vegas Strip is seen in the background as a pedestrian passes in Las Vegas. More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year's Eve celebration. Nightclubs are pulling out all the stops with performances from DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2016 file photo, the Las Vegas Strip is seen in the background as a pedestrian passes in Las Vegas. More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year's Eve celebration. Nightclubs are pulling out all the stops with performances from DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

"This year, sadly, we saw the loss of many music and entertainment legends around the world," fireworks show co-producer Catherine Flanagan said. "So celebrating their music as part of Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks displays is an opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and what the future may hold."

FILE- In this Wednesday, Dec. 28, file photo, a Christmas tree and skyscrapers illuminated for the New Year celebrations are seen in downtown Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, Russia. (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev, File) © The Associated Press FILE- In this Wednesday, Dec. 28, file photo, a Christmas tree and skyscrapers illuminated for the New Year celebrations are seen in downtown Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, Russia. (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev, File)

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In this Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Evalena Worthington, costumed as a pirate wench, practices being lowered from the mast of the sailing vessel America 2.0 outside the Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West, Fla. Emotionally wrenching politics, foreign conflicts and shootings at home took a toll on Americans in 2016, but they are entering 2017 on an optimistic note, according to a new poll that found that a majority believes things are going to get better for the country next year. (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP) © The Associated Press In this Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Evalena Worthington, costumed as a pirate wench, practices being lowered from the mast of the sailing vessel America 2.0 outside the Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West, Fla. Emotionally wrenching politics, foreign conflicts and shootings at home took a toll on Americans in 2016, but they are entering 2017 on an optimistic note, according to a new poll that found that a majority believes things are going to get better for the country next year. (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

LAS VEGAS

Pope Francis kisses a statue of the Divine Infant as he celebrates a new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) © The Associated Press Pope Francis kisses a statue of the Divine Infant as he celebrates a new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year's Eve celebration.

Pope Francis holds an incense burner as he celebrates a new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) © The Associated Press Pope Francis holds an incense burner as he celebrates a new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Nightclubs are pulling out all the stops with performances from DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars. The city's celebrity chefs have crafted elaborate prix fixe menus complete with caviar and champagne toasts.

North Koreans gather to watch a New Year's fireworks display at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon) © The Associated Press North Koreans gather to watch a New Year's fireworks display at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

An eight-minute fireworks show will kick off at the stroke of midnight, with rockets launching from the tops of half a dozen casinos.

North Koreans gather to watch a New Year's fireworks display at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon) © The Associated Press North Koreans gather to watch a New Year's fireworks display at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Federal officials have ranked the celebration just below the Super Bowl and on par with the festivities in Times Square. FBI and Secret Service agents will work alongside local police departments that are putting all hands on deck for the big night.

CORRECTS PRESIDENT'S NAME AND NAME OF HOSPITAL - Baby Shammah Jane Bolon sleeps in her mother Mary Rose's arms in the recovery room of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital after being born at exactly 12:00 midnight to become the first baby born on New Year Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The country's notorious tradition of dangerous New Year's Eve celebrations persisted after President Rodrigo Duterte delayed to next year his ban on the use of powerful firecrackers, often worsened by celebratory gunfire. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) © The Associated Press CORRECTS PRESIDENT'S NAME AND NAME OF HOSPITAL - Baby Shammah Jane Bolon sleeps in her mother Mary Rose's arms in the recovery room of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital after being born at exactly 12:00 midnight to become the first baby born on New Year Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The country's notorious tradition of dangerous New Year's Eve celebrations persisted after President Rodrigo Duterte delayed to next year his ban on the use of powerful firecrackers, often worsened by celebratory gunfire. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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CORRECTS PRESIDENT'S NAME - Nurses tend to baby Shammah Jane Bolon as she sleeps in her mother Mary Rose's arms in the recovery room of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital after being born at exactly 12:00 midnight to become the first baby born on New Year Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The country's notorious tradition of dangerous New Year's Eve celebrations persisted after President Rodrigo Duterte delayed to next year his ban on the use of powerful firecrackers, often worsened by celebratory gunfire. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) © The Associated Press CORRECTS PRESIDENT'S NAME - Nurses tend to baby Shammah Jane Bolon as she sleeps in her mother Mary Rose's arms in the recovery room of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital after being born at exactly 12:00 midnight to become the first baby born on New Year Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The country's notorious tradition of dangerous New Year's Eve celebrations persisted after President Rodrigo Duterte delayed to next year his ban on the use of powerful firecrackers, often worsened by celebratory gunfire. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

GERMANY

Police officers patrol in Princes Street, Edinburgh, prior to the Hogmanay New Year celebrations in Scotland, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. Security in British cities has been stepped up following terrorist attacks in Europe during 2016. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP) © The Associated Press Police officers patrol in Princes Street, Edinburgh, prior to the Hogmanay New Year celebrations in Scotland, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. Security in British cities has been stepped up following terrorist attacks in Europe during 2016. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

In Berlin the mood was more somber than celebratory.

"I don't like the way politics is going," said Daniel Brandt. "Fears are being fanned and people are so angry with each other."

The tone of public debate in Germany has become shriller over the past two years with the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Two Israeli tourists, on a visit to the German capital, seemed at a loss when asked about their wishes for 2017. "Peace on Earth. Just happiness, really," said Nathan and Libat, declining to give their last names.

Walking by the Reichstag, Germany's Parliament building, Hamed Noori said 2016 had been a good year. "I came to Germany from Afghanistan," he said. "Life is better here."

Birgitta Bergquist, a recent retiree visiting Berlin from Sweden, said she looked forward to spending more time with her 3-year-old granddaughter. "And we hope the family stays healthy."

Nicole Durand-Nusser, originally from France but living in Berlin for almost 50 years, said 2016 had been a difficult year: "Brexit, Trump, Erdogan — it's all getting worse.

"I'm a convinced European and I hope Europe doesn't collapse in 2017," she said.

Later, police said they arrested a man who shouted "bomb, bomb, bomb" at Berlin's massive open-air New Year's party.

Using the hashtag "#nichtlustig" — meaning "not funny" — Berlin police tweeted Saturday that the unnamed man "is now celebrating #Welcome2017 with us."

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TURKEY

Neslihan Dogruol, a restaurant owner in a chic Istanbul neighborhood, said she hopes for peace in 2017 following a year filled with "unrest and death."

"2016 affected everyone badly," she said, referring to major attacks that hit Turkey in the past year.

The restaurant, adorned with snowflakes and tiny decorative lights for the evening, will have fewer people for dinner. "There is a serious gap between 2015 and 2016 in terms of business, people are going out less," Dogruol said, adding that she expects more people to come for drinks.

Security measures were heightened in major Turkish cities. Traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, will be closed, police said. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus and others as street vendors, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.

Ankara and Istanbul were targeted by bomb attacks in 2016, killing more than 180 people. Turkey has been in the throes of violence, combatting the Islamic State group, Kurdish militants and a coup attempt blamed on the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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RUSSIA

President Vladimir Putin invoked a bit of seasonal enchantment in his New Year's Eve remarks to the nation.

"Each of us may become something of a magician on the night of the New Year," Putin said in a short televised address broadcast in the closing minutes of 2016 in each of Russia's 11 time zones.

"To do this we simply need to treat our parents with love and gratitude, take care of our children and families, respect our colleagues at work, nurture our friendships, defend truth and justice, be merciful and help those who are in need of support. This is the whole secret," he said.

New Year's Eve is Russia's major gift-giving holiday, and big Russian cities were awash in festive lights and decorations. The Moscow subway offered a special holiday train, festooned with lights and artificial greenery.

"I wish for the next year to better than this," said rider Alexander Pisaryev.

"We are waiting for good, for peace and order," said another, Valentina Daineka.

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PARIS

Tourists and French revelers swarmed along Paris' illuminated Champs Elysees Avenue on a frosty night, admiring the laser display from the Arc de Triomphe and lines of trees sparkling with lights.

"It's so magical to be here in Paris, on what people say is the world's most beautiful avenue," said Maureen O'Reilly, 42, a visitor from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

"At times like this, I do think about all those terrible things in Aleppo and how lucky we are here in Europe despite everything," she added.

Some were happy to say goodbye to 2016.

"It's been such a horrible year, with all these (entertainment celebrity) deaths, Syria, Brexit and Trump. I say: good riddance," said Karine Dublot, 38, from Lyon.

Others found a bright side.

"My hope for 2017 is that we solve all the problems with the migrants here in France, and see the end of (President) Francois Hollande," said Marc Valli, 35, from Paris. "We need someone who can sort out immigration as president."

Hollande, who is not standing for re-election in the upcoming ballot, used his last New Year's address praise his country's resilience in the face of deadly attacks in Nice and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Hollande said French people they could be proud for continuing "to live, work, go out, move around and cherish ... freedom."

Police were out in force — with over 10,000 deployed in the French capital alone — and authorities said that "the passage to the New Year will take place in the context of a persistent and very high terrorist threat."

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THE VATICAN

Pope Francis has called on the faithful to help young people find a place in society, noting the paradox of "a culture that idolizes youth" and yet has made no place for the young.

Francis said during vespers marking New Year's Eve that young people have been "pushed to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist, or fail to promise them a future."

More than responsibility, the pope said the world owed young people a debt, saying it has deprived them of "dignified and genuine work" that would allow them to take part in society, instead condemning them "to knock on doors that for the most part remain closed."

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JAPAN

Temple bells echoed at midnight as families gather around noodles and revelers flock to shrines for the biggest holiday in Japan.

"I feel this sense of duality," said Kami Miyamoto, 21, an economics student at Meiji University in Tokyo, who traveled home in Hakusan, Ishikawa prefecture, for the holiday.

"The world is heading toward conservative insular policies," she said of the U.S. election, Brexit and what she believes lies ahead for elections in Europe in 2017. "We learned about how valuable it is to get correct information."

One of the most memorable experiences for Miyamoto in 2016 was a three-week study program in South Korea. She was surprised and moved by the friendship she formed with South Korean students, and she has decided to focus her studies on relations with South Korea.

"Studying about the U.S. and Europe seems to be about looking at the past, but East Asian studies are focusing on the future," she said.

Miyamoto's mother is preparing soba noodles, a standard New Year's Eve dish in Japan, except in their home it will be filled with green onions and shrimp. As the new year rolls in, the entire family, including her younger brother and sister, will drive to a nearby shrine, which, like temples all over Japan, will be filled with those praying for good fortune in the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac.

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CHINA

Residents in Beijing and Shanghai, China's two largest cities, were passing New Year's Eve quietly in a relative state of security lockdown, according to Chinese media reports citing police.

The Bund waterfront in Shanghai had no celebrations, authorities announced this week, while the sale, use and transportation of fireworks in central Shanghai will be prohibited altogether. Large buildings that often display light shows also stayed dark. More than 30 people died two years ago in a deadly stampede on Shanghai's waterfront, where 300,000 people had gathered to watch a planned light show.

Beijing police also said countdowns, light shows, lotteries and other organized activities will not be held in popular shopping districts such as Sanlitun and Guomao. Beijing police advised citizens to avoid crowded areas, closely watch elderly relatives and children, and be aware of exit routes in venues.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his annual New Year's Eve address that his government will continue to focus on alleviating poverty at home and resolutely defending China's territorial rights.

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SOUTH KOREA

Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans ushered in the new year with a massive protest demanding the resignation of disgraced President Park Geun-hye. It was the 10th straight weekend of protests that led to Park's impeachment on Dec. 9 over a corruption scandal.

The evening rally was planned to overlap with Seoul's traditional bell-tolling ceremony at the Bosinkgak pavilion at midnight, which was also expected to be a political statement against Park.

The city's mayor, Park Won-soon, invited as guests a man whose teenage son was among more than 300 people who died during a 2014 ferry sinking, and a woman who was forced into sexual slavery by Japan's World War II military.

Park Geun-hye came under heavy criticism over the way her government handled the ferry disaster.

"So many unbelievable things happened in 2016. It didn't feel real; if felt like a movie," protester Lee Huymi said about the bizarre scandal that brought Park down. "So I hope 2017 brings a movie-like ending to the mess."

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INDIA

For most people in India, New Year's Eve is a time for family. In New Delhi and many other cities, newspapers are full of big advertisements for lavish parties at upscale hotels and restaurants. The big draws at the hotel parties are song and dance performances from Bollywood and television stars.

The western city of Mumbai will host big street parties with thousands of people at the iconic Gateway of India, a colonial-era structure on the waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea. And there was talk about money — India's recent devaluing of its currency in an apparent effort to cut graft and tax evasion.

"2016 was boring but Modi brought about a twister near the end," 18-year-old student Jugal Jadhwani said of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement in early November.

"It's good for India," he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by 42-year old Prasoon Verma.

"2016 was good and with demonetization 2017 should be good for the Indian economy and India should move to the digital age," he said.

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PHILIPPINES

The Philippines' notorious tradition of dangerous New Year's Eve celebrations persisted after President Rodrigo Duterte delayed to next year his ban on the use of powerful firecrackers, often worsened by celebratory gunfire.

Powerful firecrackers and gunfire have maimed hundreds of people and killed some each year across the Philippines despite government crackdowns, an annual government scare campaign and efforts by officials to set up centralized fireworks displays, like on Saturday night.

Duterte's southern Davao City hasn't been tainted by the bloody record because of a largely successful firecrackers ban he enforced when he was still the city's crime-busting mayor. Last month, he said he would delay his plan to replicate his Davao ban nationwide by a year because many have already invested in firecrackers and he was concerned by the impact of an abrupt ban on poor Filipinos employed in the industry.

Before New Year's Eve, the Department of Health said Saturday that 139 people had been injured by firecracker blasts in recent days, mostly children under 15.

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ROMANIA

New Year's is the biggest party of the year in Romania, and thousands flocked to the mountains to ski, hike and celebrate, some in the mood for fun, others anxious about global challenges in 2017.

Former Finance Minister Daniel Daianu, traveling to the mountain town of Sinaia, told The Associated Press that Western governments should pay closer attention to the public mood.

"People are frustrated, people are resentful and people react," he said. "Unless governments pay attention to fairness and fair play, we could see some very unpleasant surprises."

Early Saturday, young Romanians roamed streets and trains, wearing peasant costumes and singing traditional songs about goats — a New Year symbol — while waving wands made of dried flowers.

One tradition was squelched this year. Police banned masked revelers in the northeastern village of Ruginoasa from staging a traditional fight between young men involving whips and bats after several people were injured a few years ago.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

In Dubai, hundreds of thousands of people watched fireworks shoot from the sides of the world's tallest building, the 828-meter (2,716-foot) Burj Khalifa. The show was also streamed live online.

There was no repeat of last year's excitement, when police say faulty wiring sparked a fire several hours before midnight at The Address Downtown, a 63-story skyscraper nearby. The high-rise tower still remains under repair.

Just before the fireworks, private security guards stood every 50 meters (55 yards) as metal barriers blocked off sidewalks to keep the streets around the Burj Khalifa clear for roaming emergency vehicles, their strobe lights flashing in the darkness.

While 2016 brought challenges across the world, those gathered to watch the fireworks in Dubai instead chose to focus on the positive.

For Ina Dumdum, 33, of Manila, Philippines, 2016 brought a new job in Abu Dhabi and greater economic security. Wearing a pink pair of do-it-yourself "Happy New Year" rabbit ears on her head,she smiled while saying she hoped for a baby in the New Year. "2016 was prosperity," she said.

Tony Ngalande, 38, of Lilongwe, Malawi, also saw success in his automobile importing business. However, "2016 was full of a lot of surprises," he said, mentioning the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and the British vote to leave the European Union.

Ngalande laughed when asked if those surprises could portend anything negative for the new year. "So far so good," he said with a smile.

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Associated Press writers contributing to this report were: Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Michelle Rindles in Las Vegas, Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, Gerry Shih in Beijing, Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi, Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Colleen Barry in Milan, Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Thomas Adamson in Paris, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines.

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