On the Gold Coast, more than 50,000 people packed Cavill Mall in Surfer’s Paradise to celebrate the new year. Arrests were low. Local police senior-sergeant Fawcett said “We do not expect any specific drugs problems other than the biggest drug, alcohol,” Meanwhile, the local newspaper the Bulletin felt 2006 was a tough year exemplified by “the loss of celebrities Steve Irwin, Peter Brock and Belinda Emmett”.
Sydney kicked off the new year with the world’s largest fireworks show. One million people crammed the harbour foreshore despite the predicted wind and rain to see a massive fireworks show on the Harbour Bridge. This year’s celebrations marked the 50th anniversary of the magnificent bridge and it was lit up with an illuminated diamond to mark the occasion. Though not everyone was impressed. English backpacker John Johnson said: "It's been raining, there's no sunshine and the surf's rubbish - so it's a bit like England.
Internationally, New Year’s eve was celebrated in similar style. Though there were a few notable exceptions. In Baghdad, 31 December was just another day of violence. At 8:30 am a mortar fell behind a hospital in northern Baghdad at a house killing 2 children and injuring the parents. At 11am a roadside car bomb exploded in Haifa street which killed one and injured 4 others. Another person was killed in a carbomb at midday nd there were two other mortars that caused injuries. Another seven bodies were found in various parts of Baghdad during the day.
In Thailand, the celebrations were cancelled in Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai after six bombs exploded in the capital killing two people and injuring 15 others. The six bombs were set off in a 15 minute span, five in the city and one in nearby Nonthaburi. The bombs were set off in easy targets such as bus stops, rubbish bins and parking lots. Two Thai men died in the blasts. It was unclear who were behind the attacks, but police dismissed any connection with the southern insurgency.
Scotland, the home of Hogmanay, also saw the cancellation of most new year celebrations. But here the cause was nature. Severe weather caused the cancellation of parties in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling. Edinburgh has predicted a crowd of 100,000 for a concert headed by the Pet Shop Boys and Scottish singer /songwriter Paolo Nutini. The decision to cancel was made at 8:30pm local time as the weather forecast deteriorated significantly during the evening. Glasgow's organisers said wind gusts were reaching over 100kph and they could not ensure public safety.
In Berlin, high winds were also a problem but not enough to cause cancellation of the new year’s event. Gale force winds kept the city's emergency services busy on Sunday. Yet one million people thronged the main boulevard heading from the landmark Brandenburg Gate for a night of partying and a spectacular midnight fireworks display. The concert at the Gate was headed by the Scissor Sisters and the Black Eyed Peas.
Many Germans, however, prefer to stay at home on New Year's Eve and take part in one of the day’s more peculiar rituals. On 31 December, every TV station in Germany shows an old and otherwise obscure British 11 minute black-and-white comedy sketch called “Dinner for One” about an aristocrat and her butler. “Dinner for One (the video is available here on youtube) is also known as "The 90th Birthday" or by its corresponding German title “Der 90. Geburtstag”. Though mostly unknown in the English speaking world, it is New Year’s Eve cult viewing in Germany as well as Scandinavia and Switzerland. On New Year's Eve 2003 alone, the sketch was broadcast 19 times on various channels.
The sketch itself has nothing to do with New Year. Instead it tells the story of the 90th birthday of aristocrat Miss Sophie played by May Warden. As in the years before, she hosts a birthday party for her dead friends. Her butler James, played by Freddie Finton, fills in the roles of each of the friends. He gets increasingly drunk as he answers the birthday toasts proposed by Miss Sophie. The catchphrase of the sketch is
James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!
Be warned. Repetition of this exchange with someone of German extraction is likely to cause paroxysms of mirth.
There is no accounting for taste. Frohes Neue Jahr!