New York City welcomed the new year with confetti and cheers across Times Square as a New Year’s Eve tradition returned.
The new year marched across the globe, time zone by time zone, and thousands of New Year’s revellers stood shoulder to shoulder in a slight chill.
They were there to witness a ball encrusted with nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals descend above a crowd of about 15,000 in-person spectators — far fewer than the many tens of thousands who usually gather in the world-famous square to bask in the lights of the nation’s marquee New Year’s Eve event.
It did so as the US tried to muster optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are now behind it — even as public health officials cautioned on Friday against unbridled celebrations amid surging Covid-19 infections from the omicron variant.
Last year’s ball drop was closed to the public because of the pandemic.
As the ball dropped and euphoria filled the streets, Maya Scharm, a dog trainer visiting from New Jersey, felt 2021 slide away.
“It’s symbolic of getting back to normal,” she said, just minutes after the stroke of midnight.
“Hopefully it’s different this year,” said her companion, Brandon Allen. “We already have that sense of stability. We know what’s going on — there’s a new strain going around now — but it’s like we’ve kind of been through it for two years at this point.”
Though the crowds were smaller, the throngs nevertheless stretched for blocks to soak in the celebration, with many traveling from afar to take part.
Confetti lit up by electronic billboards swirled in a light wind on a mild winter night in New York City.
The annual ball drop took place as the clock ticked into midnight and ushered in the new year, an occasion usually commemorated with the uncorking of champagne, clinking of pints, joyous embraces and renewed hope for better times ahead.
Times Square is often referred to as the crossroads of the world, and city officials insisted on holding the marquee New Year’s Eve event to demonstrate the city’s resiliency even amid a resurgence of the coronavirus.
But 2022 begins just as the year prior began — with the pandemic clouding an already uncertain future.