New Year's Day

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New Year's Day
Mexico City New Years 2013! (8333128248).jpg
Fireworks in Mexico City at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day, 2013
Observed byUsers of the Gregorian calendar and calendars where months are based on Gregorian calendar
SignificanceThe first day of the Gregorian year
CelebrationsMaking New Year's resolutions, church services, parades, sporting events, fireworks [1]
Date 1 January
Next time1 January 2022 (2022-01-01)
Related to New Year's Eve, Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmastide

New Year's Day, also simply called New Year or New Year's is observed on 1 January, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar. Whilst most solar calendars (like the Gregorian and Julian) begin the year regularly at or near the northern winter solstice, the start of the new year in cultures that observe a lunisolar or lunar calendar (such as the Chinese New Year and the Islamic New Year) happen at less fixed points relative to the solar year.


In pre-Christian Rome under the Julian calendar, the day was dedicated to Janus, god of gateways and beginnings, for whom January is also named. From Roman times until the middle of the eighteenth century, the new year was celebrated at various stages and in various parts of Christian Europe on 25 December, on 1 March, on 25 March and on the movable feast of Easter. [2] [3]

In the present day, with most countries now using the Gregorian calendar as their civil calendar, 1 January according to that calendar is among the most celebrated public holidays in the world, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts in each time zone. Other global New Year's Day traditions include making New Year's resolutions and calling one's friends and family. [1]

Fireworks in London on New Year's Day at the stroke of midnight. New Years 2014 Fireworks - London Eye.jpg
Fireworks in London on New Year's Day at the stroke of midnight.


The ancient Babylonian calendar was lunisolar, and around the year 2000 BC [4] began observing a spring festival and the new year during the month of Nisan, around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. The early Roman calendar designated 1 March as the first day of the year. [5] The calendar had just 10 months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through to December, the ninth through to the twelfth months of the Gregorian calendar, were originally positioned as the seventh through to the tenth months. (Septem is Latin for "seven"; octo, "eight"; novem, "nine"; and decem, "ten".) Roman legend usually credited their second king Numa with the establishment of the two new months of Ianuarius and Februarius. These were first placed at the end of the year, but at some point came to be considered the first two months instead. [6]

The January kalend (Latin: Kalendae Ianuariae), the start of the month of January, came to be celebrated as the new year at some point after it became the day for the inaugurating new consuls in 153 BC. Romans had long dated their years by these consulships, rather than sequentially, and making the kalends of January start the new year aligned this dating. Still, private and religious celebrations around the March new year continued for some time and there is no consensus on the question of the timing for 1 January's new status. [7] Once it became the new year, however, it became a time for family gatherings and celebrations. A series of disasters, notably including the failed rebellion of M. Aemilius Lepidus in 78 BC, established a superstition against allowing Rome's market days to fall on the kalends of January and the pontiffs employed intercalation to avoid its occurrence. [8] [9]

New Year's Day in the older Julian calendar

In Christendom, 1 January traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. Menologion of Basil 047.jpg
In Christendom, 1 January traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.

The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar in AUC  708(46  BC ), was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect on 1 January AUC  709(45  BC), by edict. The calendar became the predominant calendar in the Roman Empire and subsequently most of the Western world for more than 1,600 years. The Roman calendar began the year on 1 January, and this remained the start of the year after the Julian reform. However, even after local calendars were aligned to the Julian calendar, they started the new year on different dates. The Alexandrian calendar in Egypt started on 29 August (30 August after an Alexandrian leap year). Several local provincial calendars were aligned to start on the birthday of the Emperor Augustus, 23 September. The indiction caused the Byzantine year, which used the Julian calendar, to begin on 1 September; this date is still used in the Eastern Orthodox Church for the beginning of the liturgical year.

At various times and in various places throughout mediaeval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on 25 December in honour of the birth of Jesus; 1 March in the old Roman style; 25 March in honour of Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation, the date of the conception of Jesus); and on the movable feast of Easter. [2] [3]

Christian observance

As a date in the Christian calendar, New Year's Day liturgically marked the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus, which is still observed as such in the Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, [10] [11] and by the Eastern Orthodox Church (Julian calendar, see below). The Roman Catholic Church celebrates on this day the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Gift giving

Among the 7th-century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts at the winter solstice. This custom was deplored by Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemish and Dutch: "(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom]." [12] However, on the date that European Christians celebrated the Feast of the Circumcision, they exchanged Christmas presents because the feast fell within the 12 days of the Christmas season in the Western Christian liturgical calendar; [13] The custom of exchanging Christmas gifts in a Christian context is traced back to the Biblical Magi who gave gifts to the Child Jesus. [14] [15] In Tudor England, 1 January (as the Feast of the Circumcision, not New Year's Day), along with Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, was celebrated as one of three main festivities among the twelve days of Christmastide. [16]

Acceptance of January 1 as New Year’s Day

Most nations of Europe and their colonies officially adopted 1 January as New Year's Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. France changed to 1 January from 1564, most of Germany did so from 1544, the Netherlands from 1556 or 1573 according to sect, Italy (not being united) did so on a variety of dates, Spain and Portugal from 1556, Sweden, Norway and Denmark from 1599, Scotland from 1600, and Russia from 1725. [2] England, Wales, Ireland and Britain's American colonies did so from 1752. [2] [3]

Great Britain and the British Empire

Until 1752, the Kingdom of Great Britain and its Empire at the time (except in Scotland, January 1 since 1600) had retained March 25 as the official start of the year (though informal use of 1 January had become common. [lower-alpha 1] ) With the Calendar Act of 1751, Britain and the Empire formally adopted January 1 as New Year's Day and, with the same Act, also discarded the Julian calendar (though the actions are otherwise unrelated). The Act came into effect "following the last said day of December 1751". [17] [lower-alpha 2]

(By 1750, an eleven day difference between the older Julian and the newer and more accurate Gregorian calendars also needed to be adjusted for. There was some religious dissent regarding feast days being moved, especially Christmas Day (see Old Christmas) and isolated communities continued the old reckoning to a greater or lesser extent. 1800 and 1900 were leap years in the Julian calendar but not in the Gregorian, so the difference increased to twelve then thirteen days. 2000 was a leap year in both calendars.)

Eastern Orthodoxy

At various stages during the first half of the twentieth century, all countries in Eastern Christendom adopted the Gregorian calendar as their civil calendar but continued, and have continued into modern times, to use the Julian Calendar for ecclesiastical purposes. As January 1 (Julian) equates to January 14 (Gregorian), religious celebration of the New Year on this date may seem strange to Western eyes.

New Year's Days in other calendars

Countries where the main celebrations of the New Year are other day than on 1 January Countries that do not celebrate New Year's Day on 1st January.png
Countries where the main celebrations of the New Year are other day than on 1 January

In cultures that traditionally or currently use calendars other than the Gregorian, New Year's Day is often also an important celebration. Some countries concurrently use Gregorian and another calendar. New Year's Day in the alternative calendar attracts alternative celebrations of that new year:


East Asian

Southeast Asian

South Asian

Middle Eastern

Traditional and modern celebrations and customs

New Year's Eve

Sydney contributes to some of the major New Year celebrations each year. OperaSydney-Fuegos2006-342289398.jpg
Sydney contributes to some of the major New Year celebrations each year.

The first of January represents the fresh start of a new year after a period of remembrance of the passing year, including on radio, television, and in newspapers, which starts in early December in countries around the world. Publications have year-end articles that review the changes during the previous year. In some cases, publications may set their entire year work alight in the hope that the smoke emitted from the flame brings new life to the company. There are also articles on planned or expected changes in the coming year.

This day is traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s has also become an occasion to celebrate the night of 31 December—New Year's Eve—with parties, public celebrations (often involving fireworks shows) and other traditions focused on the impending arrival of midnight and the new year. Watchnight services are also still observed by many. [25]

New Year's Day

The celebrations and activities held worldwide on 1 January as part of New Year's Day commonly include the following:


Music associated with New Year's Day comes in both classical and popular genres, and there is also Christmas song focus on the arrival of a new year during the Christmas and holiday season.

New Year's Day babies

A common image used, often as an editorial cartoon, is that of an incarnation of Father Time (or the "Old Year") wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year printed on it passing on his duties to the Baby New Year (or the "New Year"), an infant wearing a sash with the new year printed on it. [36]

Babies born on New Year's Day are commonly called New Year babies. Hospitals, such as the Dyersburg Regional Medical Center [37] in the US, give out prizes to the first baby born in that hospital in the new year. These prizes are often donated by local businesses. Prizes may include various baby-related items such as baby formula, baby blankets, diapers, and gift certificates to stores which specialise in baby-related merchandise.

Other celebrations on 1 January

The Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ on 1 January, based on the belief that if Jesus was born on 25 December, then according to Hebrew tradition, his circumcision would have taken place on the eighth day of his life (1 January). The Roman Catholic Church celebrates on this day the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which is also a Holy Day of Obligation.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed several church cantatas for the double occasion:

See also


  1. For example see Pepys, Samuel. "Tuesday 31 December 1661". I sat down to end my journell for this year, ... (The Diary of Samuel Pepys)
  2. This syntax was needed because, according the standard of the time the Bill was being written, the next day would still have been 1751.

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