Some Facts About New Year’s Day

Wednesday Dec 20th, 2023


Many places around the world begin New Year’s celebrations on December 31st.

The celebrations continue into the early hours of January 1st.

The first New Year was in March

New Year’s wasn’t always celebrated on January 1st. The earliest New Year festivities date back about 4,000 years. At that time, the people of ancient Babylon began their new year in what we now call March.

They would have an 11-day festival to celebrate the beginning of spring. They would also celebrate the fact that crops were being planted for the coming year.


Who changed it to January 1st?

The calendar that we use today is known as the Gregorian calendar. It was introduced 400 years ago by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. He declared once and for all that January 1st should be New Year’s Day.

Since then, most of the Western world celebrates the start of the year just like you do — on the first day of January.


How does everyone celebrate?

Here in North America, we usually ring in the new year by gathering with family and friends for parties. Or even special meals and spectacular firework displays.

Maybe new traditions will be created!

In Greece, a gold or silver coin is baked into a cake, called a vasilopita. The person who receives the piece of cake with the coin inside is said to have luck the rest of the year.

In Spain they eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring 12 months of happiness.

While in Bolivia, families often hang small homemade dolls outside their homes for good luck.

Over in Japan, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, bells, and gongs sound to banish bad spirits. To leave the old year behind and welcome in the new one, the Dutch make bonfires in the street using Christmas trees. Portuguese children go from home to home and sing songs for neighbours. They may receive sweets and coins in return.


What’s with the fireworks?

Fireworks originated centuries ago and are believed to have been invented by the Chinese. They are said to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck, making them a perfect way to begin a new year!

Why do we make resolutions?

Many of us make resolutions for the coming year. We promise ourselves that we’ll do something better or differently after January 1st. Whether it’s quitting a bad habit or getting better grades in school.

But where did we get this idea of making resolutions for the new year? It’s believed that the ancient Babylonians were the first ones to make New Year’s resolutions. They made promises to begin the year off right and to earn the approval of their gods.


What’s that song they always sing?

The song that’s traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve is called Auld Lang Syne. Its title means "times gone by."

The song is an old Scottish tune. But a Canadian bandleader named Guy Lombardo is responsible for making it a New Year’s tradition. He performed the song at midnight at a New Year’s Eve party in New York City in 1929. It was eventually broadcasted on the radio and TV stations around North America for New Year's.

Even though it’s become the go-to song every New Year’s Eve, very few people actually know its words!


Who celebrates first … and last?

Want to be one of the first people to welcome the new year? Then you’ll want to visit the tiny Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. It’s located in the world’s earliest time zone, so it’s always the first place on Earth to welcome a new year.

As for the last place to ring in the coming year? That title belongs to American Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean.


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