Mesopotamia (Iraq) instituted the concept of celebrating the new year 2000 BC. The Romans dedicated New Year's Day to Janus, the pagan god of gates, doors, and beginnings, for whom the first month of the year, January, is also named. The pagan deity Janus was depicted as having two faces: one looking forward and the other backward, suggesting that celebrations of the new year are pagan traditions. Some suggested this occurred in 153 BC, when it was stipulated that the two annual consuls, after whose names the Romans identified the years, acceded to office on that day, though there is no consensus on the question. After Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC as the Julian Calendar and was subsequently murdered, the Roman Senate voted to deify him on 1 January 42 BC, in honor of his life and his institution of the new rationalized calendar. Dates in March, coinciding with the March Equinox, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Jesus Christ, or other Christian feasts were used throughout the Middle Ages as the first day of the new year, although their calendars nonetheless often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December.
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]."
Most nations of Western Europe officially adopted 1 January as New Year's Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian Calendar. In England, until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, the first day of the new year was the Catholic 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 christened 1 January as the beginning of the new year according to his reform of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.
New Year's Days in other calendars
In cultures which traditionally or currently use calendars other than the Gregorian, New Year's Day is often also an important celebration. Some countries concurrently use the Gregorian and another calendar. New Year's Day in the alternative calendar attracts alternative celebrations of that new year:
Ethiopian New Year called Enkutatash. It is celebrated on September 11 (September 12 in leap years). Ethiopia uses its own ancient calendar, which was based on the Julian calendar. The new year is 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.
Cambodian New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey) is celebrated on April 13 or April 14. 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 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.
Chinese New Year is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is the first day of the lunar calendar and is corrected for the solar every three years. The holiday normally falls between January 20 and February 20. 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.
Korean New Year, called Seollal (설날), is the first day of the lunar calendar. Koreans also celebrate solar New Year's Day on January 1 each year, following the Gregorian Calendar. New Year's Day is a national holiday, so people get the day off while they have a minimum of three days off on Lunar New Year. 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 give 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 enjoy the New Year also by counting down until 12:00 am on New Year's Eve.
Thai New Year is celebrated on April 13 or April 14 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 and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder.
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.
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 marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 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, Crimea and 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 equalizes 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 not set according to the Gregorian calendar, but it always falls during September or October. The holiday is celebrated by religious services and special meals. January 1, the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar, is not celebrated widely in Israel.
Hindu In Hinduism, different regional cultures celebrate new year at different times of the year. In Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, households celebrate the new year when the Sun enters Aries on the Hindu calendar. This is normally on April 14 or April 15, 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 basically is the first month of the Hindu calendar, the first shukla paksha (fortnight) and the first day. This normally comes around March 23–24, 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 twelve months on the Malayalam Calendar. The Malayalam Calendar (called Kollavarsham) originated in 825 CE, 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, which also coincides with the Diwali festival.
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 March 14 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 harvest season, by the month of Bak (April) between April 13 and April 14. 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 organized. 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 April 13 or April 14. 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 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.
Traditional and modern celebrations and customs
Sydney contributes to some of the major New Year celebrations each year.
January 1 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 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 December 31, called New Year's Eve. There are fireworks at midnight at the moment the new year arrives (the major one is in Sydney; watchnight services are also still observed by many.)
In Scotland, there are many unique customs associated with the New Year. These form the Scottish celebration Hogmanay—the Scots name for New Year's Eve. The street party in Princes Street in Edinburgh is one famous example.
In Wales, Calennig is celebrated, with celebrations attracting thousands of people to the capital, Cardiff.
In Greece and Cyprus, families and relatives switch off the lights at midnight, then celebrate by cutting the vassilopita (Basil's pie) which usually contains one coin or equivalent. Whoever wins expects luck for the whole year. After the pie, a traditional game of cards called triantaena (31) follows.
In the Philippines, New Year's is considered part of the Christmas holiday. Noise is made on New Year's Eve with firecrackers and horns (amongst other methods) to dispel evil spirits and to prevent them from bringing bad luck to the coming new year. Tables are laden with food for the Media Noche (midnight meal), and a basket of twelve, different round fruits is displayed to symbolise prosperity in each of the coming twelve months. Public New Year's parties are organised by city governments, and are very well-attended.
In Russia and the other 14 former republics of the Soviet Union, the celebration of Novi God is greeted by fireworks and drinking champagne. Because religion was suppressed in the Soviet Union the New Year holiday took on many attributes associated with Christmas in other countries, including Christmas trees, Ded Moroz (a variant of Santa Claus) and family celebrations with lavish food and gifts. In Moscow, the president of Russia counts down the final seconds of the "old year". The Kremlin's landmark Spassky Clock Tower chimes in the new year and then the anthem starts. It is customary to make a wish while the Clock chimes. The Old New Year is celebrated on January 13 (equivalent to January 1 in the "old style" Julian calendar). Although not an official holiday, it marks the end of the holiday season and is usually when people take down trees and other decorations.
In the United States, it is traditional to spend this occasion together with loved ones. A toast is made to the new year, with kisses, fireworks and parties among the customs. It is popular to make a New Year's resolution, although that is optional. In the country's most famous New Year celebration in New York City, the 11,875-pound (5,386-kg), 12-foot-diameter (3.7-m) Times Square Ball located high above One Times Square is lowered starting at 11:59 pm, with a countdown from sixty seconds until one second, when it reaches the bottom of its tower. The arrival of the new year is announced at the stroke of midnight with fireworks, music and a live celebration that is broadcast worldwide.
In France, some regard the weather as the prediction of that year: wind blowing east, fruit will yield; wind blowing west, fish and livestock will be bumper; wind blowing south, there will be good weather all year round and wind blowing north, there will be crop failure. People would like to toast for the new year.
In Spain, it is customary to have 12 grapes at hand when the clock strikes 12 at midnight. One grape is eaten on each stroke. If all the grapes are eaten within the period of the strikes, it means good luck in the new year.
New Year's Day
The celebrations held world-wide on January 1 as part of New Year's Day commonly include the following:
An annual dip in ice-cold water by hearty individuals, most famously by members of the Polar Bear Club
New Year's 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 specialize in baby-related merchandise.
(federal) = federal holidays, (state) = state holidays, (religious) = religious holidays, (week) = weeklong holidays, (month) = monthlong holidays, (36) = Title 36 Observances and Ceremonies Bolded text indicates major holidays that are commonly celebrated by Americans, which often represent the major celebrations of the month.