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Video: 2014 welcomed with celebrations and hope

Poloa village sunset, Dec. 31, 2011 the first year we had the last sunset. [file photo: SN]

(AP) -- With fireworks, dancing and late-night revelry, millions around the world welcomed 2014 on Tuesday, gathering for huge displays of jubilation and unity as the new year arrived.

Here in American Samoa, we're the last to move into the New Year and it has become a tradition since Samoa moved across the international dateline to become the first into the new year that American Samoan's gather in Poloa to watch the last sunset of the year.

Crowds heading to New York City's Times Square could expect the traditional ball drop but no mayor this year. The new year was to be rung in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor instead.

Britain planned to welcome 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. For people in London, the New Year offered the opportunity to taste the fireworks.

The city's mayor - in conjunction with telecommunications company Vodafone - said this year's explosive display would come packed with peach-flavored snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles, allowing people to feast with more than just their eyes. The multisensory display will also include scratch-and-sniff programs, LED wristbands and fruit-flavored sweets.

In Sydney, Australia, fireworks organizers expected to set off 7 metric tons (7.7 U.S. tons) of pyrotechnics in 12 seconds in a display that sprayed from the sails of the Sydney Opera House and the city's harbor bridge.

"It filled up the whole sky," said Mona Rucek, a 28-year-old tourist from Munich, Germany.

Closer to the International Dateline, New Zealand concluded 2013 with its own fireworks that erupted from Auckland's Sky Tower while cheering crowds danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation's largest city.

In Tokyo, five priests at the Zojoji temple used ropes to swing a wooden pole against a large bell, sounding the first of 108 gongs to mark the new year. Simultaneously, "2014" lit up in white lights on the modern Tokyo Tower in the background.

Juji Muto said he was curious to hear how the bell sounded. The 75-year-old retiree said he wishes every year for good health.

China planned light shows at part of the Great Wall near Beijing and at the Bund waterfront in Shanghai. The city of Wuhan in central Hubei province called off its fireworks show and banned fireworks downtown to avoid worsening its smog.

Pope Francis used his year-end prayer service of thanksgiving to urge people to ask themselves: Did they spend 2013 to further their own interests or to help others?

The pontiff asked people to reflect if they used the past year to make the places where they live more livable and welcoming. Citing Rome as an example, Francis said the city is full of tourists, but also refugees.

More than 260 people had been injured by firecracker blasts and celebratory gunfire in the Philippines, a nation marking the end of a year of tragic disasters, including a Nov. 8 typhoon that left more than 6,100 dead and nearly 1,800 missing.

"Many here are welcoming the new year after losing their mothers, fathers, siblings and children so you can imagine how it feels," said village chief Maria Rosario Bactol of Anibong community in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan. "I tell them to face the reality, to move on and stand up, but I know it will never be easy."

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