A difficult year is coming to a muted end
Most places in the world, from virtually coronavirus-free New Zealand to barricaded Ireland, have now welcomed the arrival of 2021.
As usual, there were fireworks and parties in Auckland. The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first appeared, had boisterous parties. But, in general, the celebrations were muted – or virtual – as the world said goodbye to a difficult year. Most cities had no roaring crowds, no gatherings for fireworks shows, and hopefully no strangers kissing at midnight.
Although Madrid eased the curfew for the night from midnight to 1:30 am, people were told to stay home as much as possible, eat the traditional New Years Eve grapes while watching events on TV (and in groups of no more than gather) six). London’s Big Ben, which has been largely silent in recent years when its clock tower was being renovated, rang twelve times at midnight. And in Paris, the only people roaming the Champs-Élysées were some of the 100,000 police officers stationed across the country to keep crowds from gathering.
Quote: In a televised address from the Élysée Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron, who had recovered from his own virus, said: “The year 2020 will end in the course of development: with efforts and restrictions.”
How Trump failed his greatest test
When the US faced new waves of infection and death in the summer and fall, the president’s approach to the pandemic was based on a single question: what would that mean for him?
According to interviews with current and former administrators, the result was a lose-lose situation. Not only was President Trump defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., he missed his chance to show that he could face the crucial challenge of his term in office.
Quote: “Everything you hear is Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” said Trump during an election freeze.
By the numbers: As of Thursday, 342,577 Americans had died from the pandemic.
Analysis: Aides’ efforts to convince Mr. Trump to encourage mask wear and social distancing were derailed by his belief that his followers would rebel against anything that restricted their personal freedom.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
The silver lining of Brexit for Europe
As of today, after the Brexit transition period, Great Britain will no longer be part of the common market and the customs union of the European Union.
Although both sides lost on Britain’s departure, the long-term damage appears to be uneven. Scotland and Northern Ireland can choose to leave the United Kingdom and otherwise rejoin the European Union. In contrast, the EU itself was, in some ways, boosted by the trauma of Brexit. The European nations have seen at close quarters that a divorce is always a defeat – just like a negotiation that ends in new obstacles.
Connected: Spain and the European Union will share control of the flow of goods and people into the British territory of Gibraltar, where people fear being isolated and economically trapped outside the bloc.
If you have 12 minutes, it’s worth it
Moments of joy in 2020
Above, a wedding in the Sakura Park Pavilion in Manhattan, broadcast live via Zoom. “Nothing about our wedding turned out as we planned or expected, but I wouldn’t trade a moment from it,” writes Katherine Smith of Arlington, Va.
We asked readers to share memories of good times this year and think about what they mean now. We have received more than 750 submissions from around the world – from China to Australia, Mexico to Italy and from the United States – recording moments of ease, growth and utter joy.
The following also happens
China: With loans, grants, and even farm animals given to villagers in trouble, China has spent a lot of money to help its poorest citizens – an approach few developing countries can afford and even Beijing may find difficult to sustain.
Giant skeletons and lack of puppies: What social trends like these tell us about the uncertain economic future?
FarmVille: The simple but addicting Facebook game that took over social media feeds a decade ago has been shut down. At its peak, it drew tens of millions of players every day.
Snapshot: Above migrants in the abandoned Lipa camp near Bihac, Bosnia, on Wednesday. About 700 migrants with no winter clothes, sleeping bags or tents were stranded there in freezing temperatures on New Year’s Eve as authorities struggled to balance their security against the growing hostility of the local population.
The losses that changed 2020: When Covid-19 swept the United States, the assassination of George Floyd sparked a movement for racial justice, and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg turned the Supreme Court on its head.
What we read: This The Guardian article on burnout – and learning that work alone may not help you. “Amid the usual panic, exhaustion, misery and self-hatred, there was a steely center of clarity and even determination,” writes author Elle Hunt. “I didn’t want to live like this anymore.”
Now a break from the news
Cook: Pull out all the stops for a New Year celebration with this wintry mushroom bourguignon.
Learn: Every day our editors collect some of the most interesting, eye-catching, or adorable facts that appear in articles throughout the Times. Here are 74 outstanding results from last year.
Deal: As you head into 2021, we recommend replacing loneliness with connectivity.
With another year starting, At Home has a full collection of ideas for what to read, cook, see, and do while being safe at home.
And now for the background story about …
Drop the ball in Times Square
For the first time in decades, Times Square was closed to the public on New Year’s Eve. Instead, dozens of frontline workers and their families, dressed in masks, were honored with spots near the stage.
“Absolutely no spectators are allowed in Times Square,” said Chief Terence Monahan, the uniformed member of the New York City Police Department, at a press conference. “Don’t even try to come down there and see it.” he added.
A ball drop – or something like that – has been going on in Midtown Manhattan since 1904 when it exploded around midnight and the newly constructed New York Times Building seemed to catch fire.
(The flames were controlled and very deliberate. In fact, they were the brainchild of the Times editor, Adolph S. Ochs, who hoped to show off the new building after pulling the paper off the brink of bankruptcy.)
“No more beautiful picture has ever been set on fire on the midnight curtain,” the Times reported the next day. “Lambent flames played from the four corners of the skyscraper. From the base to the dome, the huge structure burned. “
Since the ball was introduced in 1907, it has been lowered almost every year on New Year’s Eve, with interruptions only in 1942 and 1943 due to “dim-outs” related to World War II, during which the lights had to be switched off to protect against Air strikes.
This year, all uninvited guests were turned away even though the ball had fallen. Pedestrian traffic was limited from 3 p.m. on Thursday. All in all, a far more subdued affair – in line with a greatly changed year.
That’s it for this briefing. I’ll be gone next week, but you’re in good hands for the briefings. I wish you a wonderful weekend and a peaceful start into 2021.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the remainder of the break from the news. You can reach Natasha and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• There is no new episode of “The Daily” today. Instead, we hear ten outstanding pieces from the year.
• Here’s today’s mini crossword and clue: Short Romantic Relationship (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• The word “Wackadoodlery” first appeared in The Times this week, according to the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.