The start of the new year brings hope that things will return to normal soon (Credit: JeffJacobs/Pixabay/CC0)

On December 31, 2020, people around the world let out a collective sigh of relief that the difficult and unpredictable year, which tested our resilience in numerous ways, had finally ended. Though the COVID-19 pandemic's continued threat resulted in one of the most muted New Year's Eve celebrations in recent history, a few countries were able to ring in 2021 in style.

Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks to extreme early COVID-19 precautions, which included closing borders to all outsiders, New Zealand has been "pandemic free" since June 8, 2020. The residents of Auckland — the largest city in New Zealand and one of the first major international hubs to cross into 2021 — were, therefore, able to safely gather around the beautiful waterfront to ring in the new year with a colorful fireworks and a laser light show staged from the city's landmark Sky Tower.

Sydney, Australia

Every New Year's Eve, over a million people gather at the Sydney Harbor to witness two majestic firework shows — a family-friendly display at 9:00 pm and a longer, more extravagant show at midnight. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the officials to cancel the first show and cut short the second one to just 7 minutes, instead of the customary 12 to 13 minutes. Residents were also encouraged to watch the upbeat display, that carried themes of love and solidarity on television, and special permits were needed for those wishing to see the spectacle live.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is world-famous for its New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza. This year was no exception. The dazzling display, believed to be the emirate's most expensive one yet, celebrated togetherness and paid tribute to the frontline heroes of 2020. It was perfectly timed with the show on the facade of the world's tallest building — the Burj Khalifa — and accompanied by dazzling lights and lasers, all synchronized to the Dubai Fountain show. While spectators were allowed, they had to observe strict social distancing rules and wear masks at all times.

International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station's (ISS) Expedition 64 crew members welcomed 2021 with a beloved New Year's Eve tradition — Time Square's famous ball drop in New York City. The only difference was that the ISS's beach ball depicting the globe dropped "up," instead of being forced down by the force of gravity.

Boston Dynamics Robots

Humans were not the only ones rejoicing the end of this turbulent year. Boston Dynamics' famous robots — the humanoid Atlas, the dog-shaped Spot, and the box-juggling Handle — were thrilled as well. The trio welcomed 2021 by dancing in unison to the 1962 hit “Do You Love Me" by American soul group, The Contours.

Though we are not out of the woods yet, the slew of COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide brings hope that life will return to normal soon. Meanwhile, we can all help to slow the spread of the infectious disease by following the expert-recommended measures such as washing hands frequently, wearing masks, and social distancing.

Wishing You All A Happy and Safe New(s) Year!

Resources:,, prnewswire, NASA,