An article I wrote for my Magazine Publication Module.
A lot of people approached the end of 1999 with trepidation. There were reports that aeroplanes would fall out of the sky at the stroke of midnight. All computers would crash, leading to world turmoil and people would wake up to a world that they did not recognise.
In acknowledgement of this huge milestone in the World’s calendar, most countries and or cities decided to meet the momentous occasion in various ways. Some planned fixed structures to celebrate, while others met the New Year by changing names of buildings, cities etc. Still, others planned firework displays beyond anything anyone had ever seen.
In an attempt to capture events at the turn of the century, led by the BBC and WGBH-TV and several other companies, the 2000 Today programme was created. It was to be a way of encapsulating the worldwide New Year events over a 28hour period, starting from 31st of December 1999 to the 1st of January 2000. The TV coverage of New Year celebrations would span across several countries, using over 70 international broadcasters, starting at the Line Islands. The Line Islands were supposedly the first region in the world to see the dawning of the New year. Samoa being the last.
However, it was later controversially reported that the first country to celebrate the dawning of 2000 was, in fact, the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. The inhabitants of the South Pacific island celebrated by having a cross-cultural Maori and Christian blessing on the beach, while young children sang. A beacon was lit as they looked out to the Pacific Ocean. A couple orchestrated that they completed their wedding vows as the new year began. They were reported as being the first couple of the year to be married.
London had several ways of recognising the New Year. Some in the form of fixed structures, still in use today. The opening of the Millennium Bridge, the London Eye and the Millennium Dome (opened by the Queen on New Year’s Eve) were all ways to commemorate the new century. Then later in the year, the Tate Modern was opened to memorialise the Millennium too. There was a magnificent fireworks display, the River of Fire, stretching along the River Thames from the Victoria Embankment to South Bank. There were reportedly 3 million people who came to see the spectacle with the striking backdrop of the London Eye and Big Ben. Other minor cities in the UK, had their celebrations too, for instance, Birmingham held a concert at the National Indoor Arena. There were well-known stars of the time, who provided entertainment as part of the televised worldwide celebrations.
In Australia, there were several events. In Auckland, there was a firework display over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There was a party costing approximately $2000 per head at the Sydney Opera House. There were stage shows that incorporated the diversity of the continent, overseen with a reported 1,000,000 spectators. There was a flotilla of yachts and boats, with sails dressed and lit up to look like the species of marine life found in the harbour. The fireworks display, on that occasion, was seen to be one of the world’s most impressive. It was made up of approximately 200,000 individual fireworks, culminating with the word Eternity, lit up. Other celebrations included a presentation in Adelaide, concluding with a firework display at the Central Business District.
In Tokyo, Japan the New Year was brought in with the ringing of the temple bells, which were rung 108 times to chase away the forces of evil. The Tokyo Tower was ablaze with lights, while there was a firework display after several concerts throughout the night.
India’s New Year celebrations were pushed to the back of the news coverage because passengers and crew had returned home after being held hostage for six days on a flight from Afghanistan. Mercifully, all 155 people were released after India agreed to release six prisoners in exchange for their freedom. Thankfully, the New Year was still celebrated with a firework display in New Delhi.
Nelson Mandela lit a candle in a cell on Robben Island, South Africa, to mark the stroke of midnight. The significance of this being it was where he spent 27 years in prison because of his opposition to apartheid. For him, this was commemorating the closure of his past life. The lit candle was then passed onto a young child, thus representing hope for South Africa’s future. This was also the theme of the celebrations before midnight on Table Mountain. Here representatives of several spiritual church/groups met together and carried out their religious symbolism to mark the end of 1999 and the beginning of the new era. Events included were singing, prayer, beacons, and candles lit to signify peace, hope and unity for South Africa.
Jean Michal Jarre performed a new concert called The Twelve Dreams of the Sun at the foot of the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt. It was held in two parts, starting on 31st December 1999 and ending on 1st January 2000. The performance cost approximately $9,500 000, it was attended by 120,000 people and with another 3.5 billion viewers via live broadcast. Attendance was by ticket only with VIP costing one thousand Egyptian pounds and the cheaper ticket costing fifty Egyptian pounds.
Not all countries celebrated with a firework display and or concerts. A few had their own cultural and traditional interpretations to celebrate the New Year in. For instance, several cities had drops at the stroke of midnight. Time Square, USA, had a special drop made in acknowledgement of the New Year, called the Millennium Crystal Ball. The motorised ball was made up of 504 Waterford Crystal triangles and 6000 bulbs encircled with 90 pyramid mirrors. It weighed 485.3kg and was 1.83 meters in diameter. It dropped without a hitch, although there was a contingency if there were any problems. There were several other drops throughout America, there was the Peach, Pelican and the Possum Drop.
Each continent/country/city had its own official and non-official celebrations some included cultural traditions/ceremonies etc. Spain with its Twelve Grape tradition, Bethlehem releasing 2000 doves as a symbol of peace, The Pope delivering his New Year’s blessing in the Vatican Square and Paris with the Eiffel Tower lit up with 20,000 flashing lights. Just to mention a few celebrations that took place on the historic occasion spreading from 31st December to 1st January 2000.
©2021 Sharon RM Stevens