When is New Year’s Day?
New Year’s Day is the first day of the year, in the Gregorian calendar, and falls exactly one week after the Christmas Day of the previous year.
New Year’s Day is a public holiday in all countries that observe the Gregorian calendar, with the exception of Israel. This makes it the world’s most widely observed public holiday.
Some countries may also have January 2nd as an additional New Year holiday.
Countries who still use the Julian Calendar observe New Year’s Day on January 14th.
It is traditionally celebrated with firework displays across the globe at 00:00 in the local time zones.
History of New Year’s Day
It is such a part of our lives, that it might be surprising to learn that celebrating the first day of the new year on January 1st is a relatively modern practice
With the establishment of the Roman Republic in 509 BC, supreme power resided in two consuls, who were elected annually. From 222 BC they assumed office on March 15th (the Ides of March). In 153 BC, consuls began to assume power on January 1 (the Kalends of January), which now marked the beginning of the consular or civil year as well as the calendar year.
When January and February were added during one of the many attempts to clean up the calendar, they were actually added to the end of the year. The month was named Janus after the name of the Roman god of doors and gates. Janus had two faces, one facing forward and one looking back, a fitting name for the month at the start of the year.
Despite this, the traditional springtime opening of the growing season and the time for military campaigns was still observed as the popular New Year celebration.
During the Middle Ages, a number of different Christian feast dates were used to mark the New Year, though calendars often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December in the Roman fashion. In the 11th century, William the Conqueror decreed January as the official start of the year in England, but outside of the Royal Court, nobody paid much attention.
For some parts of Europe, New Year’s Day was determined by Easter, which meant a different New Year’s Day date every year.
It wasn’t until 1582 when the Roman Catholic Church officially adopted January 1st as the New Year.
Most countries in Western Europe had officially adopted January 1st as New Year’s Day even before they adopted the Gregorian calendar.
Having broken with the Roman Catholic church, Great Britain and the English colonies in America continued to begin the year on March 25th in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It wasn’t until 1752 that Britain and its possessions adopted the New Style (Gregorian) calendar and accepted January 1st as the beginning of the year.
New Year’s Resolutions
Many people take the opportunity of the new year to make resolutions. According to a survey by ComRes, the most common New Year’s resolutions included exercising more (38%), losing weight (33%) and eating more healthily (32%).
The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions began some 4,000 years ago with the ancient Babylonians, although for them the year began not in January but in mid-March on the first moon after the spring equinox. According to historians, returning that rusty rake you’d borrowed from your neighbor was top of the Babylonian resolution list, along with the timeless promise to pay off debts.
New Year’s Day in the UK
New Year’s Day did not become a bank holiday in England until January 1st 1974, though Scotland has recognized the day since 1871.
Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the new year. The origins of Hogmanay are unclear, but it may be derived from Norse and Gaelic observances.