Reg Mombassa, the artist behind Sydney's 2013 New Year's Eve, said he wanted to use this year's fireworks to look inside people's heads.
But before he painted the sky with an absurdist vision of celestial shapes and movement, what people were thinking was as clear as the day that had burned bright and long.
Sydney was a city getting ready to celebrate, closely, together.
By the early morning on December 31, the prime spots were completely full of people in outdoor chairs congratulating themselves on their early thinking.
By mid-afternoon, many more were being turned away.
Eight areas around the Royal Botanic Gardens, Circular Quay and the north shore were full by 5pm and closed to more people, a spokeswoman for the Transport Management Centre said.
Visitors were being turned away from Blues Point Reserve, which looked like ''tent city'', local residents said. Those heading to the reserve at McMahons Point were being redirected to Bradfield Park under the Harbour Bridge at Kirribilli.
At Pyrmont, revellers face a cruise boat jam as boats try to reach the pier.
Mick Schwag, with six-year-old daughter Jenny in tow, had beaten a retreat from Mrs Macquarie's Chair after showing up at 11.30am. ''There were about 2 million people there,'' he said.
On the other side of the harbour, west of the bridge, there was some room amid the crowds.
''It's about family and friends and peace but not quiet,'' said Franklin Luzuriaga as he waited for the fireworks at Balmain's Thornton Park.
Mr Luzuriaga had come to Sydney from Manila with a desire to see the fireworks that he had seen beamed to the rest of the world as he prepared for his own celebrations hours later.
But family was a bigger pull. His daughter Sheila got married five years ago to an Australian, Greg Galea, from Lismore. On the Sydney foreshore, their two families and eight people played, joked and waited together.
Louis Galea, 73-year-old patriarch of his clan from Cobbitty, handed fruit to his Asian relatives. ''We've been coming here 15 years and to have everyone here makes it such a special night,'' he said.
About 1.6 million people were expected to flood the harbour foreshore to catch a glimpse of the eight-hour show. It culminated at midnight: blinking over the harbour was an enormous ''all-seeing eye'' designed by the event's creative ambassador, Mombassa, which was the centrepiece light effect on the bridge.
The theme of Sydney's New Year's Eve celebration was ''Shine''. It lived up to its name.
The first big bang of the evening was the kid-friendly fireworks at 9pm when the bridge was decorated by a lighting show of two little aliens taking off in a space craft.
But the epic display at midnight was the main act, being seen by more than one billion people around the world.
At 12 storeys high and 72 metres across, the eye weighed 60 tonnes and required 16 kilometres of light rope, four kilometres of electrical cable and 10,000 cable ties.
For the first time this year, a brief 10.30pm fireworks display was added to bridge the gap between the traditional 9pm and midnight explosions.
The one-minute addition was inspired by one of Mombassa's artworks,Cranium Universe, which depicts the inside of his head filled with stars and planets.
Mombassa, who was watching from the Sydney Opera House, said he was looking forward to seeing how his artwork was interpreted on such a large scale.
''It's quite strange because most of the drawings and paintings I do are actually quite small,'' he said. ''Seeing them blown up really large is quite astonishing, really.''