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New Year's Day

New Year’s Day, which is on January 1, marks the start of the year in the Gregorian calendar. This holiday is celebrated in many countries worldwide.

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New Year's Day on January 1 in the Gregorian calendar is celebrated worldwide.

©iStockphoto.com/Andrew Chambers

What do people do?

New Year’s Day celebrations vary widely across different cultures. Some children receive gifts on New Year’s Day in some countries. This is a popular holiday in Japan, where everyone celebrates his or her birthday. In Scotland the holiday is known as Hogmanay, which is characterized by the custom of visiting friends and relatives after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Many people who were up on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year and have a day off work on New Year’s Day have the chance to sleep in and spend the remainder of the day either attending church services, visiting friends or relatives, going to the movies, staying in, or watching or playing sport. Feasting on traditional New Year’s food is also a widespread practice but dishes vary across cultures.

Many people mark New Year’s Day as the first day to start a New Year’s resolution for the year. New Year’s Day parades are held in some places and some of these parades are televised. The start of New Year’s Day is usually marked by fireworks and music as the clock strikes midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Public life

New Year’s Eve is a public holiday in many places around the world including in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Schools, post offices and government offices are closed, as are most businesses, in countries where New Year’s Day is a public holiday. Those wishing to travel via public transport may need to check with the local transport authorities on public transport schedules for New Year’s Day.

Background

New Year’s Day marks the start of a new year according to the Gregorian calendar. It is a relatively modern practice. Although Romans began marking the start of their civil year on January 1 in their calendar (prior to the Gregorian calendar), the traditional springtime opening of the growing season and time for major military campaigns still held on as the popular New Year celebration.  

Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. It was adopted immediately in some areas of Europe but it was not used in various countries until even centuries later. For example, the United Kingdom and the United States started observing the Gregorian calendar in 1752, in which 11 days were dropped.

It is important to note that not all cultures follow the Gregorian calendar in observing New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For example the New Year in the Hindu, Chinese, Coptic, Jewish, Islamic calendars differ to that of the Gregorian calendar.

Symbols

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are symbolized in various ways across the world. Midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is often marked by fireworks and fire crackers. Many people drink and toast with champagne or other sparkling wine.

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