It was a world where lockdowns and let-downs were often the norm. But as a new year dawned after the coronavirus pandemic defined 2020, New Zealand was among a few nations where people were out celebrating, singing and cheering.
While celebrations for many people overseas were — or will be — online only, crowds of New Zealanders stood shoulder-to shoulder at festivals, in bars, and on the streets.
Most Kiwis were well-behaved last night, but police were called to Whangamatā's Blackies Cafe where thousands of teenagers had gathered, many of whom were on the roof throwing bottles.
Auckland woman Jane Phare is on holiday in the Coromandel town with seven teenagers, including her 15-year-old son.
She had ventured out to check on the teens. She said there must have been thousands of teens gathered on the streets. Some had climbed on to the roof of the cafe, about 200m from the friend's bach she was staying at.
"There was just this roar of out-of-control drunk kids and no music.
"There was a huge crowd of drunk teens who had climbed up on the roof of the surf club. They were throwing bottles at police — there were bottles flying everywhere, smashing on to the ground.
"The road was littered with broken glass and police trying to keep young ones arriving away from bottles crashing down. Police were telling us to stay back.
"Riot police with shields and batons arrived at the club and everybody scattered. They've arrested quite a few teenagers. There's a paddy wagon and you can hear thumping inside."
Fire and Emergency also attended incidences of people lighting bonfires on beaches and setting off fireworks.
In Auckland, thousands of people gathered in Victoria St West to watch laser shows and listen to music before the Sky City fireworks display at midnight.
Hundreds of others celebrated at the Viaduct Harbour where people basked in the sunshine before the final sunset of 2020.
At Silo Park, Che Fu DJed to relaxed partygoers sprawled across grass beside the water.
He told the crowd it was a year of extremes.
"All my blessing to you and yours," he said. "2021 is going to be a good one, I promise."
Alina Manu and her mother Nane Manu came to Wynyard Viaduct for lunch, heard the music and were drawn in.
"2020 has been challenging to say the least," Alina said.
She was hoping a spot of travel might be possible in 2021. But even if that was impossible, she was grateful for how the country handled the pandemic.
North Shore residents Elizabeth Salinas, and her children Sergio Minota, 16, and Karen Minota, 21, were among those out and enjoying the music.
Sergio said he was hopeful for a more peaceful 2021. His sister and mother agreed, with Salinas adding "and no more lockdown".
Later in the evening the sky was illuminated by a light show on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Auckland War Memorial Museum and the city's pink cycleway, Te Ara I Whiti.
It was followed by a dazzling display of fireworks off the Sky Tower.
The SkyCity entertainment centre had trucked in half a tonne of fireworks, and 14km of computer control cabling installed on three of the Sky Tower's levels.
"It's a time to celebrate and appreciate what matters most, and to look forward with a sense of hope and new beginnings," said SkyCity chief executive Michael Ahearne.
He said New Zealand was managing Covid-19 well, and that was cause for celebration.
SkyCity said it teamed up with laser show experts PyroStar International and Soulstorm Lasers to use the brightest lasers in Australasia for a three-hour animation show.
Rob McDermott from PyroStar International said the fireworks would have global significance.
New Zealand's cities are the first in the world to celebrate any new year.
"But this year they will carry even more meaning due to the fact they are actually proceeding," McDermott said.
Tragedy struck in Beach Haven just before 7pm when a woman in her 70s died in a swimming accident. Police said she was pulled from the water by members of the public but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.
At the Rhythm and Vines festival on Gisborne's Waiohika Estate, which was also being livestreamed this year, Fat Freddy's Drop and Benee were among several local acts who entertained crowds over the three-day festival.
But joy was tempered as news emerged a teenage festival-goer missing for three days was found dead.
Fletcher Wong from Wellington was last seen walking out of the admissions area at 2am on Tuesday.
There were frantic search efforts, with Fire and Emergency supplying a drone to try to help find the teenager.
But shortly before 6pm yesterday, police announced LandSAR volunteers had found the 19-year-old's body in the Ormond area of Gisborne.
In Otago, revellers gathered at the Rhythm and Alps three-day music festival.
So volatile was the Covid-19 situation, organisers had said they did not know until December 29 if the Cardrona Valley event would even go ahead.
But the sold-out music festival was one of several dotted around the country where crowds gathered to sing along to musicians on stage.
In Rotorua, the New Year's Eve Night Market bustled as people gathered for live music and family fun including balloon-twisting and face-painting.
"There's always a great vibe down here," Rotorua's Leanne Stewart said.
She said she was feeling optimistic about 2021.
Nearby, Wellington's Jo Purdey was visiting the market with her family.
Asked about her hopes for 2021, she said she wished the rest of the world could live as freely as New Zealanders could.
Meanwhile, the MP for Waiariki and Māori Party Co-Leader Rawiri Waititi hit the road on New Year's Eve for an unusual meeting.
He was en route to Waikeria Prison to meet with 16 protesting prisoners.
"They deserve the right to be treated humanely, with fresh water, food and clean clothing and they deserve to have someone advocating for them," Waititi said.
"I have been contacted directly by a number of prisoners who have made it very clear that they are unwilling to meet with anyone but myself to discuss their concerns."
A third of the Waikato prison's bed capacity has been destroyed after riots erupted on Tuesday and have dragged on into the New Year.