World Facts

Which Country Is the First to Celebrate New Years?

New Year's is first celebrated on the small island nations of Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati.

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According to the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the last day of the year, typically on December 31st. In many countries around the world, New Year’s Eve is observed with celebrations, get-togethers where people meet to eat, dance, watch firework displays, and commit to new resolutions. These celebrations typically carry over into New Year’s Day, which is January 1st, and the first day of the Gregorian calendar and Julian calendar. In pre-Christian Rome, New Year's was dedicated to Janus, who was the god of gateways and beginnings. In the Christian Gregorian calendar, the day was liturgically celebrated as the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. The feast is still celebrated by the Lutheran and Anglican Church.

History of January 1st as New Year’s Day

The New Year was first celebrated on January 1st in 153 BCE in Rome by the civil Roman calendar, which marked the beginning of tenure for new Roman consuls. However, the celebration was not strictly adhered to as many Romans still celebrated their new year on March 1st. In 46 BCE Julius Caesar started using a solar-based calendar which maintained January 1st as the New Year day and was widely observed in the Roman Empire. In medieval Europe, January 1st as the New Year was briefly abolished as it was considered a pagan holiday. January 1st was later restored as the New Year following the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582.

The Time Zone Effect

There are more than 24 different time zones in the world, which means that New Year’s is celebrated at different times throughout the world. The local time within the various time zones is defined by its difference to the world time standard or Universal Time Coordinated (UTC). The time changes by plus or minus one hour corresponding with every 15 degrees west or east of the Prime Meridian (the zero degrees longitude). However, the borders of the international time zone map are not drawn up as precisely and are adjusted to align with national and international boundaries.

Countries First to Celebrate New Year's

Many people across the world consider the well known Sydney Harbour fireworks display in Australia as the beginning of New Year celebrations. However, to the surprise of many, New Years is first celebrated on the small island nations of Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati. New Zealand follows next in celebrating the New Year, followed by Australia, Japan, and South Korea, while the last is Bakers Island.

Cultural Variations in New Year’s Celebrations

There are several nations and cultures across the world that celebrate New Year’s on varying dates. These cultures usually follow solar, lunar, and other indigenous calendars to identify special holidays and the beginning of the New Year. The various New Year celebrations include the Chinese New Year, which is celebrated between January 21st and February depending on the new moon of the first month of the lunar month, Rosh Hashanah, which is celebrated on the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, Hijri New Year celebrated in the first day of the Islamic calendar, and the Ethiopian New Year. Others include the Korean Seollal, Balinese Nyepi, Iranian Nowruz, Sri Lankan Puthandu, and Hindu Diwali.

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