SYDNEY (Agencies) - New Year's celebrations were held around the world, with firework displays in Auckland and Sydney starting a night of global partying. Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean was the first to welcome 2009 at 10am Greenwich Mean Time, before the New Year arrived in New Zealand an hour later. Auckland's dazzling firework show, launched from the Sky Tower in the centre of the city, was broadcast around the world in a prelude to the enormous pyrotechnic display in Sydney Harbour two hours later. A sombre note was sounded in Pakistan as December 31 fell on the second day of Muharram. "There are no New Year's functions at the hotel due to Muharram," said Jamil Khawar, a spokesman for the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which reopened at the weekend, three months after it was gutted in a suicide truck bombing. In Karachi, luxury hotels did not plan events due to Muharram but people gathered on the city's Arabian Sea beaches to ring in 2009 - with hundreds of paramilitary police on watch. A record crow of up to 1.5 million ushered in 2009 in Sydney, watching in wonder as spectacular bursts of fireworks lit up the night sky, culminating in a giant glowing sun on the iconic Harbour Bridge. With the theme of Creation, the event was 15 months in the making, with a dazzling array of more than 100,000 individual pyrotechnics firing from the bridge, six barges around the harbour and the top of several skyscrapers. Revellers cheered as the show started, and oohed and aahed as lightning strikes and booms of thunder made up a simulated Creation storm. A golden waterfall cascaded from the deck of the bridge as the effect, kept top secret until midnight, changed shapes from a star to a spinning wheel to a flower before being revealed as a glowing sun. The 12-minute spectacle is considered one of the best fireworks displays in the world, attracting more people on New Year's Eve than Times Square in New York or celebrations in London. It cost $5 million, but Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the event would inject more than $40 million into the local economy. She said the occasion was about celebrating a sense of identity and belonging, especially in the tough times. Jessica Williams, 29, a British tourist said New Year's Eve in Sydney was world-renowned. "Coming from overseas you've kind of got to do the whole Sydney and fireworks thing," she said. "It was a great experience." A similar event was held on the Thames in London, although the temperatures were rather different to the balmy summer's night in Australia. Over half a million people gathered in Central London nonetheless for a 1.6 million pound party on the banks of the Thames. In Edinburgh, a record 20,000 people took part in the annual torchlight procession last night as the city prepares for its Hogmanay party tonight. Several Arab states cancelled planned celebrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the Islamist-run Gaza Strip who suffered a fifth straight day of Israeli bombardment on Wednesday. Egypt, Jordan, Dubai and Syria all cancelled festivities including concerts by renowned Arab singers, with Dubai ruler Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum giving the order "as a sign of solidarity with the brotherly Palestinian people...," his office said. Tight security was planned in Mumbai, which is still coming to terms with the trauma of the November terror attacks that left 172 people dead. Police were keeping an especially close watch on traditional boat parties along Mumbai's famed waterfront. Apart from the carnage wrought by militant violence, the global financial meltdown has also dampened spirits. In Tokyo, laid off workers are camping out in the city's Hibiya Park during the holidays after companies - including leading carmakers - cut tens of thousands of jobs. At the turn of midnight, several of Hong Kong's skyscrapers let off a coordinated volley of fireworks over the city's Victoria Harbour, where hundreds of boats had gathered to watch the short spectacle. China's main festivities will come later in the month with a week-long holiday for the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. More than 250,000 people crowded Singapore's waterfront Marina Bay area for a fireworks show.