PARIS – Prayers and candlelight vigils were substituted for parties across Asia, while Paris draped black cloths along the Champs-Elysees. Revelers in New York's Times Square marked a moment of silence as the world brought in the New Year mourning the victims of devastating tsunamis.
From Europe to Africa, the joy celebrating the leap into 2005 was clouded by the sheer scope of last weekend's earthquake and tsunami tragedy, which killed more than 123,000 people in Asia and Africa and left millions of others homeless.
"Never has the step into a new year felt heavier," said Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson (search), who urged Swedes to light candles in their windows as a vigil. "We should have celebrated with fireworks and festivities. Now that feels completely wrong."
In tsunami-battered Thailand, hundreds of mourners — many clutching white roses and candles — gathered in the resort of Phuket to remember lost loved ones and friends.
Paul Foley, a native of Essex, England, who lives in Chalong, Thailand, said he believed people around the world would "spend a few moments ... thinking kind of differently."
In Europe, thousands were struggling with the loss of loved ones and friends. The confirmed death tolls for many European countries were in the double digits, but officials warned the final tallies would be in the hundreds or even thousands. For Sweden alone, 2,500 tourists were still missing, while Switzerland was waiting to hear from some 700 and the French reported at least 118 disappeared.
Pope John Paul II (search) prayed for the victims of the Indian Ocean tidal waves during a special midnight Mass in his private chapel early Saturday, the Vatican said.
Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell (search), a native New Yorker, pressed a giant button with Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) in Times Square, setting the famed crystal-covered ball slowly moving down to count the seconds until the new year.
At 8:15 p.m., the crowd quieted to mark a moment of silence to honor those killed in the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia.
"I think we all have to look in the mirror tonight before we go to bed and recognize just how lucky we are and that not everyone else is so lucky," Bloomberg said.
Many of the estimated 1 million revelers around the glittering, firework-illuminated harbor in Sydney, Australia, also marked a moment of silence for victims.
"You could tell people were a little more reverent tonight; it was kept in people's thoughts," British tourist Mark Stiles said.
Stores in major German cities said sales of fireworks were down, in some cases by a third, following appeals from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and others for the money usually spent on pyrotechnics to be donated to relief agencies.
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel of Austria also urged people to forgo fireworks. The city of Innsbruck canceled its display in a silent vigil for 40 residents of the western Austrian province of Tyrol who remain missing in Asia. Mayor Hilde Zach called the decision "a sign of solidarity" to mark "the great loss of human life."
Crowds of thousands in London fell silent for two minutes in memory of the lives lost in Asia. Then as Big Ben struck midnight, a spectacular fireworks display burst in the sky above the River Thames, casting a brilliant glow over Westminster houses of parliament.
An Olympic-themed light show, reflecting the city's bid for the 2012 games, lit up the London Eye ferris wheel.
In Paris, the 480 scarf-like strips of black cloth hung along the Champs-Elysees and on light posts at the nearby Place de la Concorde — a deliberately discreet but poignant gesture to victims.
"This night cannot be ordinary because of this mourning affecting the entire planet," deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.
Parisians still stocked up on champagne and foie gras for feasting but said the tragedy weighed on their minds.
"Our hearts will be in it a little less this year, when we think about all the victims," said Marie-Caroline Lagache, 34.
In Scotland, there was a subdued mood also on the street's of Edinburgh, where more than 100,000 converged to celebrate the traditional New Years Eve Hogmanay festival. The revelers, who were entertained by rock band Blondie, also marked the disaster with a minute of silence .
Many Asians were too busy counting the dead, feeding survivors and combating disease to even think about partying.
Fireworks and celebrations were canceled throughout Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Islamic sultanate of Brunei and much of India as government agencies urged people to attend religious services instead.
"Let's welcome the new year without a party because now we are filled with concern and sadness," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said. "Let's pray together and hopefully God will not give us another disaster."