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New Year Celebrations
By Eileen Lui

Watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve at the Sydney Harbour Bridge was an annual ritual for most Aussies. As for me, watching the fireworks on December 31, 1999 would be my second time. Yet the sight that ushered in the new millennium was as spectacular as ever.

Having had to catch glimpses of the fireworks from afar the previous New Year, I aimed to be more prepared in getting a good view this year.

On New Year’s eve, the suburbs in Australia came to a stand still as the crowd made their journey to the city. Most would watch the fireworks from Circular Quay where the Sydney Opera House is, while others would watch it from across the harbor at North Sydney. This year, I decided to be at North Sydney.

Although it was only 2 p.m., many had already secured good spots for themselves. Most had actually camped overnight, bringing with them their tents and sleeping bags. The crowd did not dampen my spirits for the new millennium. I hunted for a good spot and finally parked myself at the wharf, though it may seem dangerous as it was very close to the icy cold waters with no safety barriers. But I had no complains though - it was right opposite the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Dangerous or not, I figured that as more people came in, desperation for a good spot would drive more to the wharf. Had they not been civilized, many would have ended up in the waters that night.

With the spot finding done, the nightmare began - a seven-hour wait before the fireworks started. It was a pretty cold day for summer. The winds were strong at 20 knots a kilometer and Mr. Sunshine was hardly anywhere to be seen. Laying out my poncho, I sat and observed all around me. The crowd was mainly made up of families and groups who used this opportunity to have gatherings with their portable barbecue kits, cartons of wine, packs of beer, sleeping bags, basketful of food and games, among other things. I had my last newspaper of the year and GameBoy to keep me company.

Some were on board cruise boats or private yachts, which would mean being amongst the rich and famous. A night out on these cruises can cost up to AUS 5,000. Even being near the Sydney Opera House that night would have cost a bomb - AUS 500 for a standing position! That made me appreciate the freezing temperature and cold winds for a few moments.

At 9 p.m., the crowd was finally greeted with colorful lights that livened up the dark skies. It was spectacular! It made all the waiting worthwhile, as the fireworks went on for 15 minutes, creating nothing but pretty sparkles in the skies.

Following that was a float procession on the waters, showcasing Australia’s well-known sea creatures. These were actually giant lanterns built to a height of a three-story building. They looked very grand and just as pretty as the fireworks.

The highlight of the evening came at the start of the new millennium. The crowd was in frenzy, chanting as laser lights did the countdown. At exactly midnight, cheers resounded in the air, New Year kisses were blown, hugs were exchanged, and the new millennium was ushered in. The Y2K Bug? Forgotten in that moment of euphoria.

The midnight fireworks were even better. They took off from the bridge itself with raindrop sparklers and a winking smiley face. It is difficult to describe how pretty the sight was. You’d have to be there to know. As they say, seeing is believing. Both Australians and tourists were left with a beautiful sight that will continue to linger in memories until the next fireworks, which promises to be better!

After half an hour of a spectacular display of pretty lights in the skies, I was hoping for more. They really had a way of telling you that the New Year will be a good one.

So, next year, millennium or not, try to make it to Sydney to catch the beautiful fireworks. You won’t regret it, and it’ll be a New Year not to be forgotten. Remember, seeing is believing.

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