World Party

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Once a year in the world's capitals, the twenty-four hours that begin at 9:00 am EST are a succession of revels. After the dusklight of December 31 has swept away west and after the streetlights have all blinked on, midnight comes, and cities erupt in fireworks, in songs, in abandon. It's a new year.

Nineteen ninety-eight came first to Sydney, fifteen hours ahead of New York's falling apple; Auld Lang Syne came in on bagpipes and the pyrotechnics fell in sheets of gold. Westward: In a Tokyo confronting recession, priests rang bells to peal out the evils of the old year. In debt-wracked Seoul, dread of the new. Authorities stood watch outside bars to enforce a ban against celebration in Muslim Jakarta.

Hong Kong partied while a million dead chickens were buried. But Next Year moves on unheeding, to Moscow and to Cairo; to Berlin, Rome, and Kinshasa all at once; then to London, pausing at Dakar before it leaps across the sea. New York. Washington. Chicago. Los Angeles. The American way, with champagne and kisses, with noisemakers, and sometimes, still, with lampshades worn on the head.

The year to come may turn dark or bright; this night is the chance to pause, smiling, in the fleeting in-between. Happy New Year.