After a turbulent year marred by terror woes, Ebola outbreaks and a horrific series of airline disasters, many could be forgiven for saying good riddance to 2014 and gratefully ringing in a new year.
Across the globe, revelers looking for a respite from the gloom will converge on the beaches of Brazil, the shores of Sydney harbor and the potentially snowy streets of Las Vegas (yes, really) to welcome 2015. Here's a look at how the world is celebrating:
FIRST UP: DOWN UNDER
Sydney takes pride in being one of the first major cities in the world to welcome each new year, and it plans to greet 2015 in its trademark glittery fashion -- with a tropical-style fireworks display featuring shimmering gold and silver palm tree pyrotechnic effects.
More than 1.5 million revelers are expected to crowd along the shores of the city's famed harbor to watch the vivid eruption of light over the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and other points along the water.
The festivities, however, come just two weeks after an Iranian-born, self-styled cleric took 18 people hostage inside a downtown cafe. A tribute to two hostages killed in the siege will be displayed on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge during the fireworks display, and an extra 3,000 police officers will be patrolling the city. Still, Sydneysiders are being encouraged to celebrate as usual.
In New Zealand, a giant clock on Auckland's landmark Sky Tower structure will count down the minutes until the New Year, with a huge fireworks display launching from the tower at midnight. The capital, Wellington, will host a family-friendly celebration in a park, featuring orchestra music and iconic movie clips, culminating in a fireworks display. Midnight in New Zealand is 1100 GMT.
AT THE COPA ... COPACABANA
More than 1 million people are expected to flock to the golden sands of Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach, where two dozen artists and DJs will perform on three stages. Tourists and locals routinely party until dawn on the beach, staying awake to watch the tropical sun rise for the first time in 2015.
A massive fireworks display blasted from boats in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean will light the sky over the crowd, which traditionally dresses in all white, a Brazilian New Year tradition to bring purification and a peaceful year. Another tradition calls for partygoers to enter the sea up to their knees and jump over seven waves shortly after the New Year begins, for luck.
WATCHING THE BALL -- OR WHATEVER -- DROP
New York will drop its Waterford crystal ball at midnight, in a tradition being increasingly copied across the United States with twists celebrating local icons. Las Cruces, New Mexico, is spicing up New Year's Eve with its first chili drop. In Miami, a 10-meter (35-foot) neon orange will light up, while Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee, will drop a peach and a musical note, respectively.
Flagstaff, Arizona, celebrates with a 2-meter (6-foot) pine cone that drops from a downtown hotel. Nearby Prescott drops a 2-meter (6-foot) spurred cowboy boot in a nod to its western culture.
On Lake Erie in Port Clinton, Ohio, the community will carry on its tradition of dropping a 270 kilogram (600 pound) walleye made of wood and fiberglass. Michigan's Upper Peninsula will ring in 2015 with a nod to its mining history, with a replica of a pasty (pronounced PAS'-tee) -- a baked pastry filled with meat and potatoes -- to drop in Escanaba, one of the remote region's largest cities. The meal was popular by miners who immigrated to Michigan decades ago.
Amid the celebration, some cities are on alert for New Year's Eve protests related to recent police killings of unarmed black men. Boston's mayor and police commissioner urged activists to hold off on a planned "die-in." No plans for major protests were announced in New York, where the police department is still mourning two officers shot to death in a patrol car. But security will be tight, with more personnel than usual.
SNOW IN SIN CITY: WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Las Vegas isn't a place that expects snow, no less on New Year's Eve. So with meteorologists at the National Weather Service saying there's a chance that flurries might fall on the gambling capital's Strip and the hundreds of thousands of revelers ringing in the New Year, the agency warned visitors: dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes -- it's going to be a cold night.
Organizers of the fireworks display say the show will go on, with or without snow. Forecasts in Las Vegas pin the area's chances for New Year's Eve snow at 70 percent along with a 0 degree Celsius (32 degree Fahrenheit) low. But for that to happen, meteorologist Chris Stachelski says there needs to be moisture in the air, and that's far from a certainty for the Strip.