South Tarawa: The Pacific island nation of Samoa and parts of Kiribati were the first places in the world to welcome the new year. It will take 26 hours before all time zones have reached 2019.
Samoa and parts of Kiribati are in the world’s farthest forward timezone, which is 14 hours ahead of UTC, putting them at the same time as Hawaii except the date is one day ahead. This means it was still Sunday in places such as American Samoa when it turned Tuesday in Samoa and Kiribati.
Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island and which is part of Kiribati, is perhaps the best known member of the group. Kiritimati, home to nearly 6,500 people, was once one of the last places to usher in the new year, but in 1994 the island skipped a whole day to use being first as a tourist draw.
For the 7th time, residents in Samoa were also among the first people in the world to welcome the new year. The island country changed its timezone at the end of 2011 by moving to the west of the International Date Line, making it easier to do business with Australia and New Zealand in an effort to boost the economy.
The exclusive group lost a member in 2017 when Tonga discontinued daylight saving time after just one year. Tonga also observed daylight saving time from 1999 until 2002, a move that was sparked by its desire to be one of the first to welcome the new millennium.
New Zealand’s Chatham Islands and its 600 residents enter the new year just 15 minutes after Samoa and Kiritimati, making it the second region on Earth to usher in the new year. Auckland in New Zealand is the first major city to welcome the new year at 1100 GMT, along with Fiji, Tonga and parts of Antarctica.
It is followed at 1300 GMT with new year’s celebrations in Sydney, where a spectacular fireworks display will take place over the famous Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Major events are also planned for Seoul, Hong Kong, Dubai, Moscow, Berlin, London, Rio de Janeiro, and New York City.