New York/London: Revellers across the world ushered in 2012 with impressive fireworks and star-studded mass celebrations as they bade adieu to a tough year marked by natural disasters and economic turmoil.

In New York, hundreds of thousands gathered in Times Square to witness a crystal ball amid glittering confetti and fireworks.

Crowds erupted in cheers, kissed and hugged as the giant ball dropped at midnight to mark the start of 2012.
Lady Gaga and Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the crowd in the final-minute countdown of the famed crystal-panelled ball drop, a channel reported.

"This is crazy, it's doggone warm," said a reveller.

People hoped that this year is better than the last and outlined their resolutions for the New Year. "I am looking forward to a good future," another reveler said.

Fireworks lit up the sky over London's River Thames as the clock struck midnight -- one of many festivities worldwide.

Samoa and Tokelau -- historically the last to celebrate the new year -- revelled in being the first to party this time round, after skipping west across the international dateline, missing out on December 30 entirely in the process, in a move intended to boost trade.

New Zealand bid farewell to a year that brought more than its share of natural disasters. Auckland became the first major city to welcome the new year, where thousands of residents gathered to watch the city's annual fireworks display.

Dazzling pyrotechnics above Sydney Harbour got 2012 off to a spectacular start in Australia, with huge crowds gathered to watch.

As the clock moved through the time zones, fireworks soared and sparked over Moscow's Red Square, crowds on Paris' Champs-Elysees boulevard popped Champagne corks at midnight.

Thousands of people in Tokyo released balloons carrying hand-written wishes for the New year and in Hong Kong huge crowds turned out to witness the countdown which was illuminated by numbers on the side of a skyscraper.

The atmosphere was far more subdued in Vatican, where the pope presided over a Mass at St Peter's Basilica.

Pope Benedict led prayers of thanks and said humanity awaits the new year with apprehension but also with hope for a better future.

"Another year approaches its end, while we await a new one, with the trepidation, desires and expectations of always," Benedict said at the traditional New Year's Eve vespers service.

Brazilians in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and beyond celebrated the new year with characteristic flair and explosive pyrotechnics.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he wanted to help ensure that democratic reforms sought by Arab Spring protesters continue in 2012.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wished well-being and prosperity to all people "regardless of their political persuasion.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the new year would be more challenging than 2011, but said that dealing with Europe's debt crisis would help bring the eurozone countries grow closer together.

As the clock moved through the time zones, fireworks soared and sparked over Moscow's Red Square, crowds on Paris' Champs-Elysees boulevard popped Champagne corks at midnight.

Thousands of people in Tokyo released balloons carrying hand-written wishes for the New year and in Hong Kong huge crowds turned out to witness the countdown which was illuminated by numbers on the side of a skyscraper.

The atmosphere was far more subdued in Vatican, where the pope presided over a Mass at St Peter's Basilica.

Pope Benedict led prayers of thanks and said humanity awaits the new year with apprehension but also with hope for a better future.

"Another year approaches its end, while we await a new one, with the trepidation, desires and expectations of always," Benedict said at the traditional New Year's Eve vespers service.

Brazilians in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and beyond celebrated the new year with characteristic flair and explosive pyrotechnics.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he wanted to help ensure that democratic reforms sought by Arab Spring protesters continue in 2012.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wished well-being and prosperity to all people "regardless of their political persuasion.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the new year would be more challenging than 2011, but said that dealing with Europe's debt crisis would help bring the eurozone countries grow closer together. Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square was again a centre of a mass gathering as thousands assembled to usher in a New Year and remembers the lives lost in what has been a historic year for the country.

The Square that has been the heart of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak last February was flocked by people -- both Christians and Muslims -- some carrying posters of the 'martyrs' as a candle light vigil was held to commemorate the deaths.

"In the hope that the revolution continues and wins," was the cry of the January 25 revolution group that had called for the gathering on Facebook.

While festivities continued around the world, the New Year started on a sorrowful note for some.

In Pakistan's largest city of Karachi, three people lost their lives and several others were injured after being hit by stray bullets fired by revellers.

Celebrations continued in Karachi, however, as thousands emerged out on the streets to celebrate.

In Italy too, two people died during the New Year's celebrations -- one from an exploding firecracker, the other from a stray bullet. Several others were injured in incidents of fire.

Nearly 500 people were injured in the Philippines, again due to firecrackers and gunfire as people welcomed 2012.

(Agencies)