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Encyclopedia > New Years Day

This article is about January 1st in the Gregorian calendar. For all other New Year celebrations, see New Year.

New Year's Day is the first day of the year, in the Gregorian calendar. In modern times, it is January 1. In most countries, it is a holiday. It is still celebrated as a holy day on January 14 by those who still follow the Julian calendar such as followers of some of the Eastern Orthodox churches known as Old Calendarists.


Modern Practices

January 1 marks the end of a period of remembrance of the passing year, especially on radio, television, and in newspapers, which usually starts right after Christmas Day. Publications often have year-end articles that review the changes during the past year. Common topics include politics, natural disasters, music and the arts, and the listing signficant individuals who died during the past year. Often there are also articles on planned or expected changes in the coming year, such as the description of new laws that often take effect on January 1st.

This day is traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s, has become an occasion for celebration on the night between December 31 and January 1, called New Year's Eve. There are often fireworks at midnight. Depending on the country, individuals may be allowed to burn fireworks, even if it is forbidden the rest of the year.

It is also an occasion to make New Year resolutions, which they hope to fulfill in the coming Year; the most popular ones in the western world include to stop tobacco smoking or drinking, or to lose weight or get physically fit.

In most counties that follow the Gregorian calendar, including the United States, United Kingdom and Japan (for a very brief list), New Year's Day is a public holiday. For many of those countries, if January 1st falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then the Monday will be a public holiday.


Among the 7th century druidic pagans of Flanders, it was the custom to exchange gifts at New Year's, a pagan custom deplored by Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemings, "[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 Years' gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom]." The quote is from the vita of Eligius written by his companion Ouen.

In the Middle Ages, most European countries used the Julian calendar, but a variety of dates were used as the first day of the year; see New Year for details. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar led eventually to the adoption of 1 January as New Year's Day in all countries using that calendar.

Specific, high-profile or common celebrations

  • In Pasadena, California, the Tournament of Roses is held on New Year's Day with nearly a million revelers viewing the parade from the streets, with millions more around the world watching on television, followed by the Rose Bowl footbal game.
  • In New York City, the world famous 1,070-pound, 6-foot-diameter Waterford crystal ball located high above Trafalgar Square in Times Square is lowered starting at 11:59 PM and reaches the bottom of its tower at the stroke of midnight on January 1. It is sometimes referred to as "the big apple" like the city itself; the custom derives from the time signal that used to be given at noon in harbors.
  • Other Ball Drops occur in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and Sydney Harbour
  • Vienna New Year's Concert, in Austria
  • In The Netherlands and some other European countries, the New Year is greeted with massive private fireworks. The custom may have been imported by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. However, fireworks have long been part of the European celebration of major events, so this may not be so. This day is also the occasion to make bonfires of discarded Christmas trees in some countries.
  • Junkanoo parade, in Nassau, Bahamas
  • Some US mayors hold New Year's levees
  • In Scotland, there are many special customs associated with the New Year. For more information, see Hogmanay, the Scots' name for the New Year celebration.
  • Japanese New Year in Japan
  • The Peach Drop in Underground Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Polar Bear Clubs: In many cities near bodies of water, they will have a tradition of people plunging into the cold water on New Year's Day. The Coney Island Polar Bears Club in New York is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They have had groups of people enter the chilly surf since 1903.

Images Associated with New Year's Day

In the United States, cultural images include an old Father Time with a sash proclaiming the Old Year leaving as an infant with a sash proclaiming the New Year enters.

See also

  Results from FactBites:
New Years Day (983 words)
The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.
New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.
The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the new year was brought to early America by the Germans.
New Years (453 words)
Although the new year has been celebrated since prehistoric times, it was celebrated on the vernal equinox rather than what we now consider the first of the year.
Years later, Julius Caesar wanted to change the date to a more logical date but that year, January 1, 45 BC was the date of a new moon.
New Year Resolutions is simply another way to wish away the past in exchange for hopes of the future.
  More results at FactBites »



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