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New Year's Day in the United Kingdom

New Year's Day on January 1 marks the beginning of the New Year in the Gregorian calendar. It is a bank holiday in the United Kingdom, where people mark the day with unique customs and traditions.

New Year fireworks behind Big Ben, London.
On New Year's Day, London hosts one of the most popular fireworks events in the world.
©iStockphoto.com/extravagantni

Is New Year Day a Public Holiday?

New Year's Day is a bank holiday, which means it is a non-working day in the United Kingdom.

As with all bank holidays in the United Kingdom, a substitute holiday is declared if New Year's Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Usually, this is on the following Monday.

How Is New Year's Day Celebrated in the UK?

New Year is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Like in most parts of the globe, New Year festivities in the United Kingdom begin the day before on New Year's Eve on December 31. Around the world, as well as in the UK, people host and attend New Year parties at home or celebrate in restaurants, bars, or on the street, counting down to the end of the year and wishing each other a happy new year with champagne and other sparkling beverages as the clock strikes twelve.

London Fireworks and Parade

Many cities and towns in the UK celebrate the coming New Year by putting on public firework displays. The city of London has one of the most famous ones. Thousands of people gather at the banks of the river Thames to see an almost 12-minute fireworks display over the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel. The pyrotechnics begin just after Big Ben chimes midnight and are accompanied by music. Since 2014, this has been a ticketed event.

The fireworks in London are followed by the London New Year's Day Parade, considered to be the largest New Year parade in the world. A 30-year old tradition, the parade began in 1987 as a way to raise money for local charities. Originally called the Lord Mayor of Westminster's Big Parade, the event was renamed in 1994. Parts of the parade route are only accessible to ticketed viewers.

Fire Festival in Allendale

People in Allendale in Northumberland, England, begin their New Year festivities with a fire procession—men carry barrels full of lit tar on their heads across the village before throwing them into a bonfire in the village square.

Hogmanay, Loony Dook, and First Footing in Scotland

Hogmanay, the Scottish word for the last day of the year, is a uniquely Scottish custom. The celebrations begin on December 30, with torchlight processions throughout Scotland, with Edinburgh's parade being the biggest and the most popular. On December 31, Scots usher in the New Year by partying and singing Auld Lang Syne, a poem written by Robert Burns, while holding hands with friends and family.

The next day, January 1, folks around Scotland take part in a Loony Dook, an event where costume-wearing people jump into frozen bodies of water to raise money for charity.

Yet another special Scottish New Year tradition is First Footing, where the first guest of the New Year brings gifts that symbolize good fortune, such as black buns, coal, salt, shortbread, and whisky. Traditionally, tall, dark, and handsome men were preferred to be the first-foot in a household.

Stonehaven's Fireball Ceremony

A unique Scottish New Year tradition is the Fireball Ceremony in Stonehaven. At midnight, about 40 people walk down High Street while swinging flaming balls over the head. The ceremony lasts for about 20 minutes and is followed by fireworks.

Calennig in Wales

In Wales, the New Year was traditionally celebrated by exchanging gifts in an event known as Calennig. Children went from door to door, carrying an apple skewered with sprigs of evergreens and corn and sang songs of health and prosperity in exchange for money or food. Today, this tradition is no longer widely followed, except in a few parts of the region.

People in Gwaun Valley in Pembrokeshire wait for nearly two weeks after January 1 to celebrate their New Year or Hen Galan, which is the first day of the year in the Julian Calendar. On this day, children sing songs while visiting local homes.

Who Celebrates New Year in the UK?

New Year is a secular holiday in the UK, so most people celebrate it. Even though employers are not legally obliged to give their employees a day off on January 1, most places of business and work are closed on this day. Many people tend to spend a quiet day with family and friends after attending New Year Eve parties.

History of New Year

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 wasn't used by many countries until centuries later. The United Kingdom only started observing the Gregorian calendar in 1752, when 11 days were dropped.

Because the UK is a multicultural society, not all people observe New Year’s Day on January 1. For example, the New Year in the Hindu, Chinese, Coptic, Jewish, and Islamic calendars takes place on a different date than in the Gregorian calendar.

Related Holidays

About New Year's Day in other countries

Read more about New Year's Day.

New Year's Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
FriJan 12010New Year's DayBank holiday 
SatJan 12011New Year's DayBank holiday 
MonJan 32011New Year's Day observedBank holiday 
SunJan 12012New Year's DayBank holiday 
MonJan 22012New Year's Day observedBank holiday 
TueJan 12013New Year's DayBank holiday 
WedJan 12014New Year's DayBank holiday 
ThuJan 12015New Year's DayBank holiday 
FriJan 12016New Year's DayBank holiday 
SunJan 12017New Year's DayBank holiday 
MonJan 22017New Year's Day observedBank holiday 
MonJan 12018New Year's DayBank holiday 
TueJan 12019New Year's DayBank holiday 
WedJan 12020New Year's DayBank holiday 

Quick Facts

New Year's Day marks the start of a new year in the Gregorian calendar, the official calendar used in the United Kingdom.

New Year's Day 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day 2019

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
New Year's DayEnglish
Første nyttårsdagNorwegian

Alternative name

Nyttårsdagen

List of dates for other years

Related holidays

Other holidays in January 2019 in the United Kingdom

Fun Holiday on January 1, 2019

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