NEW YORK â€“ Dazzling fireworks lit up Australia’s Sydney Harbor, communist Vietnam held a rare Western-style countdown to the new year and Japanese revelers released balloons carrying notes with people’s hopes and dreams as the world ushered in 2011.
Crowds were gathering in New York’s Times Square, where nearly a million New Year’s Eve revelers were expected to watch a ball with 32,000 lights descend in the run-up to midnight, despite the debilitating blizzard that paralyzed the city just days before.
In Europe, Greeks, Irish and Spaniards began partying through the night to help put a year of economic woe behind them.
As rain clouds cleared, around 50,000 people, many sporting large, brightly colored wigs, gathered in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square to take part in Las Uvas, or The Grapes, a tradition in which people eat a grape for each of the 12 chimes of midnight. Chewing and swallowing the grapes to each tolling of a bell is supposed to bring good luck, while cheating is frowned on and revelers believe it brings misfortune.
Police had painstakingly screened all those arriving to make sure drinks and bottles were left behind to avoid injury in the crowded square, so many quickly downed their sparkling cava wine before joining the animated party.
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