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Mary dazzles at New Year gala as imperial family greets well-wishers

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Christmas for Denmark's Crown Princess


and her relatives was a intimate family affair, featuring local customs such as an almond hunt before dinner and the opening of presents on December 24 at the royal estate of Marselisborg, near the country's second city of Aarhus.

Come New Year's Day, though, the royals were back to official business, throwing open the doors of Copenhagen's Amalienborg Castle for their traditional white tie gala.

Accompanied by her smartly uniformed husband Frederik, a resplendent Mary led the way in a satin evening gown and a short fur cape. Completing the look was a magnificent set of ruby jewels which once belonged to the prince's grandmother, Queen Ingrid.

Her pregnant sister-in-law, Marie, also struck a regal note in an aquamarine affair and stole combination.

The elegant France-born princess - who wed husband Prince Joachim in May - has made quite an impression in the royal family. And her mother in law, Queen Margrethe, used her traditional New Year's address to speak of her joy at attending the couple's wedding last May.

As the Danish aristocrats hosted their festivities, Japan's number one family celebrated the New Year by greeting a crowd of around 74,000 at Tokyo's Imperial Palace.

Flanked by family members including his son Naruhito and daughter-in-law, Masako, Emperor Akihito acknowledged the cries of "Banzai" (long live). In a rare comment on economic issues, the royal told them he was "worried" about the global downturn and hoped "the new year is a better one for our people".

Photo: PA
Wearing rubies gifted to her on her marriage, Mary of Denmark makes a regal entrance with Frederik at the royal family's official soiree to mark New Year's Day
Photo: PA
Her sister-in-law Marie and husband Joachim, who are expecting their first child this year, also attended the gala
Photo: Getty Images
In Japan the imperial family began 2009 by welcoming thousands of well-wishers to the royal palace in Tokyo. The emperor spoke to them of his concern about the impact on ordinary people of the economic downturn

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