Quiet New Year's Eve Seemed Surreal For Many Around the Globe

A quiet Times Square on New Year's Eve
Times Square in New York City was eerily deserted.Getty

One social media poster wrote, "Thank you New Yorkers for staying home and keeping your neighbors safe!"

This New Year’s Eve was unlike any other. 

In Times Square, which normally hosts thousands of revelers for the televised "New Year’s Rockin’ Eve," things weren't so rockin’ after all. Streets were nearly barren, with the exception of invited guests including first responders.  

Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Andra Day and Cyndi Lauper performed on an elevated stage amid relative silence, The New York Times reported. Social media blew up with criticism of Lopez's rendition of Aerosmith's "Dream On," which included her version of Steven Tyler's high-pitched scream. Mayor Bill de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray were at the low-key celebration, dancing at midnight as the ball dropped.

The celebration drew much commentary on Twitter, with descriptions ranging from “sad” and “surreal" to “awe-inspiring."

One poster noted the show looked more like “a scene out of the Twilight Zone."

Another wrote, "Yes, as it should be. “New Yorkers are smart. And they and their great city will be back. And I can’t wait!”

With pandemic restrictions as backdrops, most people celebrated quietly in small gatherings and some opted to ring in 2021 solo or with their furry friends. Most were eager to put 2020 behind them. “BE GONE 2020 & Covid-19,” one person wrote.

In other parts of the country, many popular casinos and restaurants were open with limited capacity amid curfews, but some took it a bit too far. Despite a plea from Las Vegas governor to avoid gatherings, thousands lined the Strip by early evening, The Associated Press reported.

Fireworks in many major cities were canceled. New Orleans, a city that loves a good party, had no pyrotechnic extravaganzas. In Miami, the giant orange that climbs to the top of the InterContinental hotel was canceled for the first time in 30 years, The Times reported. 

In Austin, Texas, a virtual New Year’s Eve concert featured eight local bands and artists performing at music venues with no audiences. In Chicago, there was a drive-in house party with music guru Julian “Jumpin” Perez, with freestyle music, fireworks at midnight and even singing porta-potties.

At Seattle Center, fireworks were replaced with a digital-effects show that the Space Needle streamed online, according to the Seattle Times. The annual black-tie celebration in West Palm Beach's Mar-a-Lago resort went on without two important guests. Donald Trump, who has hosted the pricey event for the last two decades, was absent, as was first lady Melania Trump. The two unexpectedly returned to Washington, D.C., in a last-minute change of plans. 

In Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first diagnosed, crowds packed the streets and released balloons to celebrate 2021, CBS News reported.  The rest of the country was quieter, with the suspension of fireworks and temple celebrations.

Across Europe, residents were encouraged to stay home. From the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron, recovering from COVID-19, said, "The year 2020 ends as it unfolded: with efforts and restrictions.”

In Australia, among the first to celebrate 2021, there was limited access to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, typically an annual spectacle that draws millions. This time it was mostly viewed on TV or online,  The Associated Press reported. 

At Notre Dame Cathedral, a computer-generated concert and light show called, “Welcome to the Other Side,” was live-streamed. It was a stark contrast from a year ago, when the Champs-Elysees had some 300,000 people assembled for a massive fireworks display.

In Berlin, outdoor gatherings were discouraged and indoor celebrations limited to five adults from no more than two households. Fireworks that are traditionally part of the feast day of St. Sylvester, were prohibited this year. 

Not all countries were restricted. In New Zealand and in the Pacific island of Tonga, it seemed a pandemic did not exist, The Times reported. In Auckland, people gathered for barbecues and midnight fireworks. Masks were optional, but were rarely seen. And in Tonga, one of the few countries that has no recorded coronavirus cases, precautions among its residents, including a curfew and socially distancing, were temporary lifted for New Year’s Eve.

Despite all the restrictions and heartbreak brought during 2020, many people across the world still found a reason to believe.

“May next year be better for all of us, may it be a year of hope, peace and love," wrote one.