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As the clock ticked closer to 2011, cities across Asia readied for midnight events ranging from traditional prayers in Japan to a massive pyrotechnic display in the shape of a dragon in Taiwan. Europeans were looking forward to celebrations that could help them forget their economic worries.

Pope Benedict XVI holds the pastoral staff as he celebrates a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on New Year's Day 2011.

Alessandra Tarantino/Alessandra Tarantino/AP

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Hardy Dutch swimmers brave the icy North Sea during the annual polar bear swim on New Year's Day 2011 in Scheveningen, Netherlands

Jasper Juinen/2011 Getty Images

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The sky above the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city center lights up at midnight during the fireworks display to celebrate the New Year's Day in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.

Rob Griffith/Rob Griffith/AP

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People gather to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Red Square in Moscow on January 1, 2011. New Year revellers around the planet began welcoming 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties Friday, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather that has struck across the world.

DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/(Photo credit should read DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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Fireworks explode over a clock during New Year's Day celebrations in Bucharest's Constitution square January 1, 2011.

Radu Sigheti

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Revelers gather in Parliament Square ahead of New Year celebrations on December 31, 2010 in London, England. Thousands of people are lining the banks of the River Thames in central London to see in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dan Kitwood/(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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People gather at Sofia's main square to celebrate the new year January 1, 2011.

Oleg Popov/REUTERS/Oleg Popov

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In this time exposure photograph residents use sparklers to welcome 2011 during the New Year's festivities in Manila on January 1, 2011. The Philippine capital burst with various colorful fireworks and merry making as Filipinos usher in the New Year.

ROMEO GACAD/ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

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Larry Maxwell, 2, sits atop the shoulders of his dad, Christopher Lee, both of Baltimore, MD, in Times Square for the annual midnight ball drop in New York, NY on December 31, 2010. Revelers who want a good view of the ball dropping arrive early in the afternoon and wait until midnight. (Photo by Brian Harkin/Getty Images)

Brian Harkin/Getty Images

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Fireworks explode over St. Basil Cathedral at Red Square during New Year's Day celebrations in Moscow January 1, 2011.

MIKHAIL VOSKRESENSKY/Mikhail Voskresensky/Reuters

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Pakistani people celebrate the New Year in Lahore on January 1, 2011. New Year revellers around the planet began welcoming 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather that has struck across the world.

ARIF ALI/Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

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The number 2011 is written in the air with a sparkler in front of Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) during New Year's Eve celebrations in Vienna December 31, 2010. Picture taken using slow shutter speed.

LISI NIESNER/Lisi Niesner/Reuters

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A firework display explodes off Taiwan's tallest skyscraper Taipei101 to usher in the New Year, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 in Taipei, Taiwan. 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese revolution which toppled the last dynasty to establish China's first republic. The Republic of China is still Taiwan's official name.

Wally Santana/Wally Santana/AP

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Revellers take part in New Year celebrations in Hong Kong's Times Square January 1, 2011.

TYRONE SIU/Tyrone Siu/Reuters

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Fireworks explode above Singapore's financial district at the stroke of midnight to mark the New Year's celebrations Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.

Wong Maye-E/Wong Maye-E/AP

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Fireworks are seen above Jakarta's downtown on January 1, 2011 marking the New Year. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Jakarta to mark the New Year.

BAY ISMOYO/BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

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Residents enjoy fireworks during the New Year celebrations at the Malaysia's landmark Patronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on January 1, 2011. New Year revellers around the planet welcomed 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

SAEED KHAN/SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

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Children wear 2011 novelty glasses during New Year Eve celebrations in Hong Kong's Times Square December 31, 2010.

TYRONE SIU/Tyrone Siu/Reuters

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Fireworks explode over the skyline of Kuala Lumpur during the New Year celebrations January 1, 2011.

BAZUKI MUHAMMAD/BAZUKI MUHAMMAD/Reuters

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People release balloons as the Tokyo Tower is illuminated to celebrate New Year at a countdown event at the Zojo-ji Buddhist temple in Tokyo January 1, 2011.

KIM KYUNG-HOON/KIM KYUNG-HOON/Reuters

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Fireworks erupt over the Sydney Harbour bridge during New Year's in Sydney on January 1, 2011. New Year revellers around the planet welcomed 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

DRINA THURSTON/DRINA THURSTON/AFP/Getty Images

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Fireworks erupt over the Sydney Harbour bridge during New Year's in Sydney on January 1, 2011. New Year revellers around the planet welcomed 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

DRINA THURSTON/DRINA THURSTON/AFP/Getty Images

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South Koreans gather to celebrate 2011 New Year's fireworks in downtown Seoul on January 1, 2011. New Year revellers around the planet welcomed 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

PARK JI-HWAN/PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images

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