(CNN) -- Throngs of revelers gathered around Times Square in New York City early Sunday to ring in the New Year amid cheers, glittering confetti and fireworks in one of many festivities worldwide.
Crowds erupted in cheers, kissed and hugged as the giant ball dropped at midnight to mark the start of 2012.
"This is crazy, it's doggone warm," said Gary Grieco of College Point New York, who attended the unusually warm festivities this year.
Grieco said he hopes this year is better than the last and outlined his resolutions for the New Year.
"Quit smoking, that's my promise ... today is the day," he said.
From London to Samoa, the world ushered in 2012 and said goodbye to a year marked by natural disasters, economic turmoil and other highlights such as the end of the Iraq war.
"Natural disasters were pretty brutal and the end of the Iraq war was long overdue," Grieco said.
Fireworks lit up the sky over London's River Thames as the clock struck midnight -- one of many festivities worldwide.
As Big Ben chimed on midnight, the sky exploded with pyrotechnics to mark the start of what Mayor Boris Johnson promised to be "the most extraordinary and exciting year we are likely to see in our lifetime in this city."
In 2012, London will host the Summer Olympics and pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee marking her 60 years on the throne.
England was relatively late to the party, which began 14 hours earlier (at 5 a.m. ET) in Samoa, Tokelau and the Christmas Islands in the western Pacific.
Samoa and Tokelau -- historically the last to celebrate the new year -- reveled in being the first to party this time round, after skipping west across the international dateline, missing out on December 30 entirely in the process, in a move intended to boost trade.
From there, the midnight revelry worked its way west. The final ones set to ring in the new year will also be in the Pacific, specifically on the U.S. Midway Islands and American Samoa.
New Zealand bid farewell to a year that brought more than its share of natural disasters, with fireworks bursting through a blanket of fog to light up Auckland's Sky Tower.
Dazzling pyrotechnics above Sydney Harbour got 2012 off to a spectacular start in Australia, with huge crowds gathered to watch.
In South Korea, the Boshingak bell in downtown Seoul chimed 33 times to celebrate the occasion, while in Japan, many families ate a bowl of long noodles together to symbolize the bridge from one year to the next.
Crowds of onlookers cheered as fireworks and bright lights flashed over Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour and boats filled with revelers drifted below.
In Laos and Cambodia, Buddhist temples struck their gongs 108 times to cast out 108 types of human weakness.
The atmosphere was far more subdued in Vatican, where the pope presided over a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.
The celebrations then moved across Europe. Russia started by kicking off its new year in a grand way with fireworks over the Kremlin. Three hours later, much of the continent -- including Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Germany -- were officially in 2012, before England and Ireland finally joined in the next hour.
Never known to shy away from a party, Brazilians in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and beyond celebrated the new year with characteristic flair and explosive pyrotechnics. They were followed one hour later by another large swath of South America that included Argentina, Paraguay and Chile.
CNN's Kim Segal, Laura Smith-Spark, Holly Yan and David Ariosto contributed to this report.