PARIS - A million revelers cheered fireworks in Sydney, Australia - one of the first cities to celebrate the New Year. Beijing started the year with fireworks, singing and dancing put on by the organizers of the Summer Olympics.
In France, cafes filled with the last night of cigarette smoke before a smoking ban goes into effect.
Security was tight around the world. Fireworks were canceled in downtown Brussels, Belgium, where police last week detained 14 people suspected of plotting to help an accused al-Qaida militant break out of jail. In Paris, where festivities centered on the famous Champs-Elysees avenue and the Eiffel Tower, about 4,500 police and 140 rescue officials patrolled the streets.
In Thailand, an army spokesman said he believed that five bombs set off by suspected Muslim insurgents in a Thai-Malaysian border tourist town likely targeted New Year's revelers.
The bombs, which wounded 27 people, exploded in the hotel and nightlife area of Sungai Kolok, including two inside a hotel dance club and one hidden in the basket of a motorcycle outside a hotel, spokesman Col. Akara Thiprote said.
On the other side of the globe, several European countries rang in the new year with new habits.
Starting at midnight, the smoke-filled cafe was to become a memory in France. Following up on a ban last year on smoking in many indoor locations, cigarettes will now be off-limits in dance clubs, restaurants, hotels, casinos and cafes.
People can still smoke in their homes, hotel rooms and sealed smoking chambers at establishments that decide to provide them.
Two European Union newcomers, Cyprus and Malta, start using the euro at the stroke of midnight. The Mediterranean islands, both former British colonies, scrap the Cyprus pound and Maltese lira to bring the number of countries using the shared currency to 15. Politicians will ceremonially withdraw euros from automatic teller machines after midnight, with fireworks and outdoor celebrations in the two capitals, Nicosia and Valletta.
Along with the innovations, old European traditions were maintained.
In London, people were gathering in Trafalgar Square and along the banks of the River Thames to watch a fireworks display and hear Big Ben - Parliament's iconic bell - welcome the New Year with 12 resounding bongs.
In a quirky tradition in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, Madrid residents planned to dine on 12 grapes - one for each chime at midnight.
Berlin was braced for a massive fete: In a stretch leading from the city's famous Brandenburg Gate along Tiergarten park to the western part of town, officials set up three stages, 13 bands, 40-yard tall Ferris wheel and over 100 beer stands and snack joints.
In Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI took a somber note, lamenting what he called the 'trivialization' of sexuality and lack of faith among young people during a vespers' service in St. Peter's Basilica.