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. As a date in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom, 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 and Lutheran Church. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates on this day the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
In present day, with most countries now using the Gregorian calendar as their de facto calendar, New Year's Day is among the most celebrated public holidays in the world, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new yearstarts in each time zone. Other global New Year's Day traditions include making New Year's resolutions and calling one's friends and family.
Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) instituted the concept of celebrating the new year in 2000 BC and celebrated new year around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. The early Roman calendar designated 1 March as the first day of the year. 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 Ianuariusand Februarius. These were first placed at the end of the year, but at some point came to be considered the first two months instead.
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. 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.
In 567 AD, the Council of Tours formally abolished 1 January as the beginning of the 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 and the Feast of the Annunciation; and on the movable feast of Easter. These days were also astronomically and astrologically significant since, at the time of the Julian reform, 25 March had been understood as the spring equinox and 25 December as the winter solstice. (The Julian calendar's small disagreement with the solar year, however, shifted these days earlier before the Council of Nicaea which formed the basis of the calculations used during the Gregorian reform of the calendar.) Mediaeval calendars nonetheless often continued to display the months running from January to December, despite their readers reckoning the transition from one year to the next on a different day.
Among the 7th-century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts on the first day of the new year. 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]." However, on the date that European Christians celebrated the New Year, they exchanged Christmas presents because New Year's Day fell within the 12 days of the Christmas season in the Western Christian liturgical calendar; the custom of exchanging Christmas gifts in a Christian context is traced back to the Biblical Magi who gave gifts to the Child Jesus.
Because of the leap year error in the Julian calendar, the date of Easter had drifted backward since the First Council of Nicaea decided the computation of the date of Easter in 325. By the sixteenth century, the drift from the observed equinox had become unacceptable. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII declared the Gregorian calendar widely used today, correcting the error by a deletion of 10 days. The Gregorian calendar reform also (in effect) restored 1 January as New Year's Day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire – and its American colonies – still celebrated the new year on 25 March.
Most nations of Western Europe officially adopted 1 January as New Year's Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian Calendar. In Tudor England, 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. There, until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, the first day of the new year was the Western Christian Feast of the Annunciation, on 25 March, also called "Lady Day". Dates predicated on the year beginning on 25 March became known as Annunciation Style dates, while dates of the Gregorian Calendar commencing on 1 January were distinguished as Circumcision Style dates, because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, the observed memorial of the eighth day of Jesus Christ's life after his birth, counted from the latter's observation on Christmas, 25 December. Pope Gregory acknowledged 1 January as the beginning of the new year according to his reform of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.
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:
- Nayrouz and Enkutatash are the New Year's Days of the Coptic Egyptians and the Ethiopians, respectively. Between 1900 and 2100, both occur on 11 September in most years and on 12 September in the years before Gregorian leap years. They preserve the legacy of the ancient Egyptian new year Wepet Renpet, which originally marked the onset of the Nile flood but which wandered through the seasons until the introduction of leap years to the traditional calendar by Augustus in 30-20 BC. In Ethiopia, the new year is held to mark the end of the summer rainy season.
- The Odunde Festival is also called the African New Year is celebrated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States on the second Sunday of June. While the name was based on the Yoruba African culture, its celebration marks the largest African celebration in the world, which more or less was started by a local tradition.
- The Sotho people of Lesotho and South Africa celebrate Selemo sa Basotho on 1 August during the end of the Southern Hemisphere's winter. This is based on the Sotho calendar, and includes observances such as "Mokete wa lewa", a celebration which follows the harvest.
- Chinese New Year is celebrated in some countries around East Asia, including China, and South-east Asia, including Singapore. It is the first day of the lunar calendar and is corrected for the solar every three years. The holiday normally falls between 20 January and 20 February. The holiday is celebrated with food, families, lucky money (usually in a red envelope), and many other red things for good luck. Lion and dragon dances, drums, fireworks, firecrackers, and other types of entertainment fill the streets on this day. January 1 is also a legal holiday in China, and people will also celebrate the Gregorian New Year in this day, but it is not as grand as the traditional Chinese New Year.
- Japanese New Year is celebrated on 1 January because the Gregorian calendar is now used instead of the Chinese calendar.
- Korean New Year is celebrated on the first day of the solar calendar and lunar calendar respectively in South Korea. The first day of the lunar calendar, called Seollal (설날), is a big national holiday with the Korean thanksgiving Day, called Chuseok(추석). South Koreans also celebrate solar New Year's Day on 1 January each year, following the Gregorian Calendar. New Year's Day is also a national holiday, so people have the day off while they have a minimum of three days off for Lunar New Year. Koreans now consider solar New Year’s Day as the first day of the year, while the first day of the lunar calendar is considered a traditional holiday. Koreans celebrate New Year's Day by preparing food for their ancestors' spirits, visiting ancestors' graves, and playing Korean games such as Yunnori (윷놀이) with families. Young children show respect to their parents, grandparents, relatives, and other elders by bowing down in a traditional way and are given good wishes and some money by the elders. Families also enjoy the New Year by counting down to midnight on New Year's Eve on 31 December.
- North Koreans celebrate the New Year's Day holiday on the first day of the solar calendar, 1 January. Solar New Year’s Day, called "Seollal(설날)", is a big holiday in North Korea, while they take a day off on the first day of the lunar calendar. The first day of the lunar calendar is regarded as a day for relaxation. North Koreans consider the first day of the solar calendar to be even more important.
- Cambodian New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey) is celebrated on 13 April or 14 April. There are three days for the Khmer New Year: the first day is called "Moha Songkran", the second is called "Virak Wanabat" and the final day is called "Virak Loeurng Sak". During these periods, Cambodians often go to the pagoda or play traditional games. Phnom Penh is usually quiet during Khmer New Year as most of the Cambodians prefer spending it at their respective hometowns.
- Thai New Year is celebrated on 13 April or 14 April and is called Songkran in the local language. People usually come out to splash water on one another. The throwing of water originated as a blessing. By capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing, this "blessed" water is gently poured on the shoulder of elders and family for good fortune.
- Thingyan, Burmese new year's celebrations, typically begin on 13 April but the actual New Year's day falls on 17 April in the 21st century. The day has slowly drifted over the centuries. In the 20th century, the day fell on 15 or 16 April while in the 17th century, it fell on 9 or 10 April.
- Vietnamese New Year (Tết Nguyên Đán or Tết), more commonly known by its shortened name Tết or "Vietnamese Lunar New Year", is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam, the holiday normally falls between 20 January and 20 February. It is the Vietnamese New Year marking the arrival of spring based on the Chinese calendar, a lunisolar calendar. The name Tết Nguyên Đán is Sino-Vietnamese for Feast of the First Morning, derived from the Hán nôm characters 節 元 旦.
- Christians in India celebrate 1 January as the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar. Catholic Christians also celebrate 1 January as The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- Diwali related New Year's celebrations include Marwari new year and Gujarati new year.
- Indian New Year's days has several variations depending on the region and is based on the Hindu calendar.
- Hindu In Hinduism, different regional cultures celebrate the new year at different times of the year. In Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Nepal, Odisha, Punjab, Telangana, Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu households celebrate the new year when the Sun enters Aries on the Hindu calendar. This is normally on 14 April or 15 April, depending on the leap year. Elsewhere in northern/central India, the Vikram Samvat calendar is followed. According to that, the new year day is the first day of the Chaitra Month, also known as Chaitra Shukla Pratipada or Gudi Padwa. This is basically the first month of the Hindu calendar, the first Shukla paksha (fortnight) and the first day. This normally comes around 23–24 March, mostly around the Spring Equinox in Gregorian Calendar. The new year is celebrated by paying respect to elders in the family and by seeking their blessings. They also exchange tokens of good wishes for a healthy and prosperous year ahead.
- Malayalam New Year (Puthuvarsham) is celebrated either on the first day of the month of Medam in mid-April which is known as Vishu, or the first day of the month of Chingam, in the Malayalam Calendar in mid-August according to another reckoning. Unlike most other calendar systems in India, the New Year's Day on the Malayalam Calendar is not based on any astronomical event. It is just the first day of the first of the 12 months on the Malayalam Calendar. The Malayalam Calendar(called Kollavarsham) originated in 825 AD, based on general agreement among scholars, with the re-opening of the city of Kollam (on Malabar Coast), which had been destroyed by a natural disaster.
- Nepal Sambat is the Nepalese New Year celebration.
- Pahela Baishakh or Bangla Nabobarsho is the first day of the Bengali Calendar. It is celebrated on 14 April as a national holiday in Bangladesh, and on 14 or 15 April in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and part of Assam by people of Bengali heritage, irrespective of their religious faith.
- The Sikh New Year is celebrated as per the Nanakshahi calendar. The epoch of this calendar is the birth of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak in 1469. New Year's Day falls annually on what is 14 March in the Gregorian Western calendar.
- Sinhalese New Year is celebrated in Sri Lankan culture predominantly by the Sri Lankan Sinhalese, while the Tamil New Year on the same day is celebrated by Sri Lankan Tamils. The Sinhalese New Year (aluth avurudda), marks the end of the harvest season, by the month of Bak (April) between 13 and 14 April. There is an astrologically generated time gap between the passing year and the New Year, which is based on the passing of the sun from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries) in the celestial sphere. The astrological time difference between the New Year and the passing year (nonagathe) is celebrated with several Buddhist rituals and customs that are to be concentrated on, which are exclusive of all types of 'work'. After Buddhist rituals and traditions are attended to, Sinhala and Tamil New Year-based social gatherings and festive parties with the aid of firecrackers, and fireworks would be organised. The exchange of gifts, cleanliness, the lighting of the oil lamp, making kiribath (milk rice), and even the Asian Koel are significant aspects of the Sinhalese New Year.
- Tamil New Year (Puthandu) is celebrated on 13 April or 14 April. Traditionally, it is celebrated as Chiththirai Thirunaal in parts of Tamil Nadu to mark the event of the Sun entering Aries. Panchangam (almanac), is read in temples to mark the start of the Year.
- Telugu New Year (Ugadi), Kannada New Year (Yugadi) is celebrated in March (generally), April (occasionally). Traditionally, it is celebrated as Chaitram Chaitra Shuddha Padyami in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka to mark the event of New Year's Day for the people of the Deccan region of India. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar. The Saka calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March–April) and Ugadi/Yugadi marks the first day of the new year. Chaitra is the first month in Panchanga which is the Indian calendar. Panchangam (almanac), is read in temples to mark the start of the Year.
- The Old New Year in Serbia is commonly called the Serbian New Year (Српска Нова година / Srpska Nova Godina), celebrated on 14 January as the start of the New Year by the Julian calendar. The Serbian Orthodox Church, with traditional adherence in Serbia (including Kosovo), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia, celebrates its feasts and holidays according to the Julian calendar. A part of the population celebrates Serbian New Year in a similar way as the New Year on 1 January. This time, usually one concert is organised in front of either City Hall or the National Parliament (in Belgrade), while fireworks are prepared by the Serbian Orthodox Church and fired from the Church of Saint Sava, where people also gather. Other cities also organise such celebrations. Restaurants, clubs, cafes, and hotels are usually fully booked and organise New Year's Day celebrations with food and live music.
- In the Gwaun Valley, Pembrokeshire, Wales the new year is celebrated on 13 January, based on the Julian calendar. See New Year celebrations in Gwaun Valley.
- On Foula, in the Shetland islands, the Julian calendar is observed, with Yule on 6 January and Newerday on 13 January.
- Among Gaels (the Irish, Manx and Scots), the festival of Samhain (held on the night of 31 October–1 November) is believed to have marked the "Celtic new year." Many Samhain traditions survive as part of modern Halloween, and on the Isle of Man as Hop-tu-Naa.
- In Ireland, New Year's Day was called Lá na gCeapairí, or the day of the buttered bread. A possible meaning to the consumption of buttered bread was to ward off hunger and famine in the coming year, by placing the buttered bread on the doorstep in the morning. Some traditions saw parties of young people calling from house to house to receive buttered bread and occasionally poteen, or to give out buttered bread in exchange for pennies.This tradition has since died out, having been popular in the 19th century, and waning in the 1930s and 1940s.
- Hijri New Year in the Islamic culture is also known as Islamic new year (Arabic: رأس السنة الهجرية Ras as-Sanah al-Hijriyah) is the day that marks the beginning of a new Islamic calendar year. New Year moves from year to year because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. The first day of the year is observed on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar.
- Nowruz also known as Persian and Kurdish New Year marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on 21 March or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years by the related cultural continent. The holiday is also celebrated and observed by many parts of Central Asia, South Asia, Northwestern China, Crimeaand some groups in the Balkans. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, the same time is celebrated in the Indian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalises night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals.
- Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is celebrated by Jews in Israel and throughout the world. The date is the new moon of Tishrei, which is the seventh month counting from Nisan, the first month of Spring. It always falls during September or October. The holiday is celebrated by blasting of shofar trumpets, to signify it as a day of judgement, by prayers of penitence, by readings from the law and prophets, and by special meals. The night of 31 December/1 January, the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar, is also celebrated widely in Israel and is referred to as Sylvester or the civil new year.
New Year's Eve
Main article: New Year's Eve
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.
New Year's Day
The celebrations and activities held worldwide on 1 January as part of New Year's Day commonly include the following:
- Several major parades are held on New Year's Day, including the London's New Year's Day Parade, Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade (also known as the "Rose Parade"), and Philadelphia's Mummers Parade. In the Bahamas, it is also associated with Junkanoos.
- Beginning in the 2010s, it is also the day that First Day Hikes takes place in the fifty state park systems of the United States.
- The Vienna Philharmonic orchestra traditionally performs a New Year's concert on the morning of New Year's Day.
- A "polar bear plunge" is a common tradition in some countries, where participants gather on beaches and run into the cold water. Polar Bear Clubs in many Northern Hemisphere cities have a tradition of holding organised plunges on New Year's Day, and they are often held to raise money for charity.
- In the United Kingdom and United States, New Year's Day is associated with several prominent sporting events:
- In the United States, 1 January is the traditional date for several major post-season college football bowl games, including the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Since 2008, the National Hockey League has hosted an annual outdoor game, the Winter Classic, which rotates between different host teams annually, and usually showcases a major regional rivalry. If New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, sporting events and associated festivities (such as the Rose Parade) traditionally held on New Year's Day are typically deferred to 2 January in defense of the National Football League—which plays the final gameday of its regular season.
- The Premier League in English football traditionally holds a fixture of matches on New Year's Day, stemming from the historic tradition of games being played over the Christmas holiday period (including, just as prominently, Boxing Day).
- The final of the PDC World Darts Championship typically falls on New Year's Day.
- The Cheltenham Racecourse holds a New Year's Day fixture, which includes the Fairlawne Handicap Chase, Dipper Novices' Chase, and Relkeel Hurdle.
- Johann Sebastian Bach, in the Orgelbüchlein, composed three chorale preludes for the new year: Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen ["Help me to praise God's goodness"] (BWV 613); Das alte Jahr vergangen ist ["The old year has passed"] (BWV 614); and In dir ist freude ["In you is joy"] (BWV 615).
- The year is gone, beyond recall is a traditional Christian hymn to give thanks for the new year, dating back to 1713.
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.
Babies born on New Year's Day are commonly called New Year babies. Hospitals, such as the Dyersburg Regional Medical Center 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.