World Facts

What Happened On December 31st In...?

New Year's Eve has seen the fall of the Western Roman Empire's frontiers and Ottawa's christening as Canada's capital.

December 31st of every year is also known as New Year’s Eve or Old Year’s Day. Catholics in certain European countries observe the date as Saint Sylvester’s Day. This special day is mostly celebrated in the evening especially in social gatherings where people eat, drink and merry as they reflect on the past year. The celebrations usually climaxed by the ushering in of a new year which is characterized by noise, fireworks, prayers, and other forms of celebration. Being the last day of the year, a lot of activities have taken place in the history of this day around the world. Some of these events are looked at below.

Barbarians Cross the Rhine and Invade Roman Gaul

December 31, 406 is the recorded date of the famous crossing of the Rhine by a group of barbarians invading the Roman Empire. The Rhine was a Roman Empire’s most secured boundary, and so its crossing marked a climactic moment in the decline of the empire. The Crossing of the Rhine initiated destruction of several Roman Cities and collapse of Roman Civic order in Gaul. The day is important in the migration period because many Germanic tribes were able to move out of Scandinavia and Germania.

Western Saxons face invading Danish Vikings at the Battle of Englefield

On December 31, 870, the Battle of Englefield was fought near Reading in the modern English county of Berkshire. It was one of the series of battles between the Saxons and the invading Vikings. The Battle of Englefield took place when the Kingdom of Wessex was invaded by the Dane army. Many of the Danes were killed in the battle while the rest were driven back to Reading by the Saxon on that day. Three days later, the Danish were pushed further by the West Saxon army in the Battle of Reading.

The British East India Company is Chartered

The British East India Company, informally referred to as John Company or the BEIC, was a British joint-stock company established to carry out trading activities with the East Indies, and conducted business with Qing China and the Indian Subcontinent. The BEIC was granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I of England on December 31, 1600, with the hope of breaking the Dutch Monopoly of spice in the modern Indonesia. The company eventually expanded and ruled areas of India with its armies and assumed administrative functions of the area.

Queen Victoria Designates Ottawa as the New Capital City of Canada

December 31, 1857 remains to be one of the most important dates on the Canadian calendar. On this day, Queen Victoria settled on Ottawa as the Canadian Capital city. The location of Ottawa along the border between what were then Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario) is considered the main reason for its selection. It was also considered a compromised city for both the English and French Speakers. Today, Ottawa is a major city and the “most educated city” in Canada because of the high concentration of scholars.

West Virginia Readmitted into the U.S. after Seceding from Confederate Virginia

On May 13, 1862, a reorganized government of the mountainous region of what was then the western portion of the U.S. state of Virginia approved the formation of a new separate state of their own. The new state of West Virginia, formed by its people in opposition to the slave-holding agenda of the rest of Confederate Virginia during the American Civil War, made an application for admission into the Union which was sent to the Congress. On December 31, 1862, President Lincoln approved an enabling act which admitted West Virginia on condition that it inserted a provision in its constitution which abolished slavery. The West Virginia Convention mate on February 1863 where the condition was met and a proclamation admitting the state was made by President Lincoln on June 20, 1863.

Other Major Events That Occurred On the Last Day of the Year

Other notable events which took place on December 31 included Thomas Edison’s demonstration of his new incandescent light bulb at Menlo Park in 1871, Times Square hosting its first New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City in 1907, the Soviet Union's official dissolution in 1991, and a simultaneous occurrence of a blue moon and lunar eclipse in 2009, among other events.

Historical Events Occurring On December 31stYear
Barbarians cross the Rhine and invade Roman Empire-held Gaul.406
Western Saxons face invading Danish Vikings at the Battle of Englefield.870
The British East India Company is chartered.1600
Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa to be the capital city of Canada.1857
West Virginia admitted into the Union as its own state after seceding from Confederate Virginia.1862
Thomas Edison demonstrates his new incandescent light bulb at Menlo Park.1879
Times Square hosts its first New Year's Eve celebration.1907
General Motors marks it achievement of being the first U.S. company to earn more than $1 Billion in a single business year.1955
The Soviet Union is officially dissolved, and all of its operations come to an end.1991
A blue moon and lunar eclipse simultaneously occur.2009

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