Continued from page 1

“We are planning this public New Year event because we want residents of Yangon to enjoy the public countdown like in other countries,” said Win Thura Hlaing, managing director of Forever Blossom company, a subsidiary of Forever Media.

With live music performances by celebrities, light shows, food stalls, fireworks and other activities, the countdown is expected to draw 50,000 people, Win Thura Hlaing said.

Jakarta’s street party centers on a 4-mile-long thoroughfare closed to all traffic from nightfall until after midnight. Workers erected 16 large stages along the normally car-clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city. Indonesia’s booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and is bringing prosperity — or the hope of it — to Indonesians.

Spirits in the capital have been further raised by the election of a new, populist governor who is pledging to tackle the city’s massive infrastructure problems.

The Sydney crowds were undiminished by Australian government warnings that the Washington deadlock on the U.S. debt crisis was partly to blame for a slowing Australian economy.

Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue hosted the event.

Florida tourist Melissa Sjostedt was among the thousands gathered near a southern pylon of the bridge. She said before the event that seeing the fireworks would fulfill an ambition that began a decade ago when she read about them in National Geographic magazine.

“Ever since that, I’ve always wanted to see this for real, live, in person,” she said.

Despite a somber mood in the Philippines because of devastation from a recent typhoon, a key problem for authorities remained how to prevent revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers — including some nicknamed “Goodbye Philippines” and “Bin Laden” — that maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year, including many children.

A government scare tactic involving doctors displaying brutal-looking scalpels used for amputations for firecracker victims has not fully worked in the past, so health officials came up with a novel idea: Go Gangnam style.

A government health official, Eric Tayag, donned the splashy outfit of South Korean star Psy and danced to his YouTube hit “Gangnam Style” video while preaching against the use of illegal firecrackers on TV, in schools and in public arenas.

“The campaign has become viral,” Mr. Tayag said. “We’ve asked kids and adults to stay away from big firecrackers and just dance the Gangnam, and they’re doing it.”

Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo predicted 2013 would be less turbulent than 2012 because the Chinese New Year in February will usher in the year of the snake, bringing an end to the year of the dragon, which was associated with water. Water is one of the five elements in feng shui theory, the Chinese practice of arranging objects and choosing dates to improve luck.

“Water is fear, so that’s why we have had so much turbulence, especially in the winter months,” such as doomsday prophecies, school shootings and concerns about the fiscal cliff, Mr. Lo said.

“But the good news is that the coming year of the snake is the first time that fire has come back since 2007. Fire actually is the opposite to water — fire is happiness — so therefore the year of the snake is a much more optimistic year. So you can see signs of economic recovery now,” he added.

Story Continues →