Australia, New Zealand, Samoa among first to welcome 2019

Fireworks explode over the harbor and the Sydney Harbor Bridge after midnight Monday during New Year's celebrations in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Brendan Esposito/EPA-EFE

Dec. 31 (UPI) — Samoa staked its claim as the first country to celebrate 2019 early Monday, as island countries just west of the International Date Line got a jump on the rest of the world.

Samoa, which shared the “first” status with Kiritimati, shared a video of its fireworks celebration on Facebook.

“This government initiative is a special commemoration marking Samoa as the first country to welcome the New Year,” the post’s caption said. “The fireworks display will be an ongoing annual celebration to [bring] in the new year and for all to witness and enjoy from now on.”

Some in Kiritimati could take a one-hour flight east to American Samoa across the International Date Line and celebrate the new year again later Monday, as it will be one of the last in the world to welcome 2019.

Auckland, New Zealand, rang in 2019 an hour after Samoa and went to social media to show off its fireworks celebration.

Parts of Russia celebrated the start of 2019, followed by eastern Australia. Thousands who waited in Sydney were drenched by heavy rains and thunderstorms hours before midnight, forcing the cancellation of an aerial flyby. Australia’s largest city was two hours behind Auckland to enter 2019 at 8 a.m. EST.

More than a million people gathered around Sydney Harbor to join in New Year’s celebrations despite the rain and 2 billion watched on television.

Japan, North and South Korea, China and the Philippines followed as the next major nations to enter the new year.


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