Revellers rang in the New Year worldwide on Thursday, although global economic jitters, conflict in the Middle East and tragedy in Thailand cast a long shadow on the dawn of 2009.
Up to one million people braved frigid temperatures in New York city to witness the traditional midnight dropping of the Times Square crystal ball as confetti rained down from skyscrapers and fireworks filled the sky.
Crowds shouted out the last seconds of the year as the huge orb -- glowing and glittering through 2,668 crystals and more than 32,000 red, blue, green and white LED bulbs -- descended a special pillar.
Mayor Micheal Bloomberg warned on NY1 television that 2009 promised "tough times" for New York, whose vitality is directly linked to Wall Street's fortunes.
In Washington, where Barack Obama -- on vacation in Hawaii -- moves into the White House in 20 days, heavy winds were blamed for at least one death in the area and forced the cancellation of fireworks in two suburbs.
Tragedy marred New Year's celebrations in Thailand where fire ripped through a trendy Bangkok nightclub, killing at least 58 revellers and injuring 243. On-stage pyrotechnics were the suspected cause of the inferno.
Four Britons and two French were among the injured, their foreign ministries said.
Several Arab states, meanwhile, cancelled planned celebrations as Palestinians in the Islamist-run Gaza Strip suffered a sixth straight day of Israeli bombardment on New Year's Day.