Thousands braved a frigid New York night to celebrate the start of 2018 in Times Square, an annual celebration that dates back to 1904.

Tarana Burke, a social activist who started the #MeToo movement to draw attention to sexual abuse, pushed the button that started the famed ball drop – a hallmark of the New York celebration for 110 years.2017 saw a sea change in attitudes and awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment, as millions of people used the hashtag to show how pervasive abuse is in the wake of accusations made against dozens of high profile men, including celebrities, members of Congress and business leaders.

“We need to go into the new year as a new beginning, with a new set of commitments to a better world,” Burke told the New York Daily News.

As they do each year, the crowd counted down as the crystal ball slid down a pole, arriving at the bottom as 2018 began, accompanied by confetti and fireworks. 

Hundreds of thousands of people – watched over by thousands of police and other security personnel – crowded the square, despite temperatures around -12 C (10 degrees Fahrenheit). 

“Our toes are frozen, so we’re just dealing with it by dancing,” Remle Scott told the Associated Press. She traveled to New York with her boyfriend from San Diego to ring in the new year. 

The frosty festivities in Times Square included performances by Mariah Carey, Sugarland and Nick Jonas.

Fireworks around the world

In London, fireworks and the sound of Big Ben – the massive bell in the Elizabeth Tower clock – welcomed the start of 2018 for about 100,000 revelers near the River Thames.Big Ben has been silent since August, when a renovation project on the clock began.It’s not scheduled to return to regular service for about four years.

Fireworks were also part of the celebrations in Paris and Moscow.In the Russian capitol, fireworks lit up the sky over the Kremlin, while in Paris the display was held at the Arc de Triomphe.

Thousands gathered around Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor to watch a 10-minute musical firework display, which included “shooting stars” fired from rooftops and revelers dancing to “Auld Lang Syne.”

In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, over 400 couples participated in a New Year’s mass wedding provided for free by authorities.

Nearly 1.5 million people gathered to watch a rainbow fireworks display above Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and the opera house, as the country celebrated legalizing gay marriage.

Security tight

In preparation for celebrations in cities around the world, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement, military and security officials are being deployed to keep New Year’s Eve revelers safe.

In Australia, officials were out in full force on the ground, air and sea as part of the largest security operation in the country. Police in Melbourne last month arrested a man for planning to shoot revelers on New Year’s Eve.

In the United States, New York City officials used two-step screening, snipers, street closures and specially trained dogs to secure Times Square.

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