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Barricades are set up on an empty street before the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square New York on December 31, 2020.

December 31, 2020, New York City: This New Year’s Eve looks different from most. When the world was normal (read: pandemic-free), people from all walks of life would flock to Manhattan’s hub, anxiously eager to experience the city on such a magical night—unfazed by the concept of packing in like sardines, able to laugh off the feeling of a stranger’s warm breath on the back of your neck with carefree ease.

This year, in contrast, Times Square is quiet, with some invited guests, mainly medical professionals, and workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are required to mask up, despite any plans they initially had to kiss their loved one when the Times Square Ball drops at midnight. City officials have sternly stated not to attempt to enter and ensure that it’s guarded by a stronger police presence than in previous years.

“We’re not going to have you stand on a street corner and stare up,” warned Chief of Department, Terence Monahan. “Don’t come to the area and think you’ll be able to watch it. Don’t come.” Photos depict police officers monitoring a perimeter set up to restrict pedestrian traffic starting at 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

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Police officers close the street with barriers before the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, New York on December 31, 2020.  The world began ushering in the New Year with pandemic controls muting celebrations for billions of people eager to bid farewell to a virus-ridden 2020.

Nevertheless, hope remains, as the ball, decorated with more than 30,000 LEDs, will still drop at midnight, even without a million spectators there in real life to witness it. Ryan Seacrest will still be there to dutifully host the annual Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve program, and there will still be special performances from stars like Jennifer Lopez and Cyndi Lauper. It’s undeniably a historic event to witness, even if it’s from your couch in sweats and not in front of Times Square’s Disney store.

“It’s going to be actually, arguably, the most special, the most poignant, the most moving New Year’s Eve,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.” In 2021, we’re going to show people what it looks like to recover, to come back.”

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President of Jamestown Equities Michael Phillips and President of Countdown Entertainment Jeff Straus attend the New Year’s Eve Ball testing event before the official Times Square Celebration on December 30, 2020 in New York City.

Even though this year’s festivities look different, our nation’s persistence to continue to put the show on the road, as they’d say, is a testament to our strength. This year, amid a global pandemic, the Black Lives Movement, and a harrowing presidential election, we’ve traded the evening’s romance for strength.

A sucker for an overly dramatic rom-com, I am shamelessly a *big* fan of the 2011 movie New Year’s Eve. In the film, Hilary Swank’s character manages to fix an electric problem that was preventing the ball from dropping, saving the evening from utter catastrophe. The following quote from the movie:

“Sometimes it feels like there are so many things in this world we can’t control. Earthquakes, floods, reality shows… But it’s important to remember the things that we can. Like forgiveness, second chances, fresh starts… Because the one thing that turns the world from the longing place to a beautiful place… is love. Love and any of its forms. Love gives us hope… Hope for the New Year.”

No matter where you find yourself this New Year’s Eve, GRAZIA hopes you’re able to sustain a little bit of the night’s undeniable magic.

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A man wears a double face mask before the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square New York on December 31, 2020.