In the Gregorian calendar (today mostly in use), New Year’s Eve, the last day of the year, is on December 31.
New Year’s Eve is all about numbers. Indeed, we spend the entire day counting down the hours until 11 p.m., when we start counting the minutes, which we do until 11:59 p.m., when we start counting the seconds.
December 31, 2016 and January 1, 2017 – New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are on a Saturday and Sunday.
The International Date Line, located at 180 degrees longitude and on the exact opposite side of the earth of the prime meridian, denotes the passage of a calendar date from the day before. The countries west of the line move into a new day first, and other countries (moving westward) follow.
Samoa and parts of Kiribati are the first places to welcome the New Year while American Samoa and Baker Island in the United States, are among the last.
Many cultures celebrate the event in some manner.
Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.
The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March.
A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March.
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as New Year’s Day.
In present day, with most countries now using the Gregorian calendar as their de facto calendar, New Year’s Day is probably the most celebrated public holiday, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts in each time zone.
A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior.
“Auld Lang Syne” is traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. He may have based it on a folk song. The words auld lang syne mean “times gone by”.
Popping champagne corks at the stroke of midnight is a mainstay on New Year’s Eve, whether at swanky parties or home celebrations.
Each New Year’s Eve 1 million people gather in New York City’s Times Square to watch famous ball drop. Another 1 billion people from around the world will watch the famed ball drop on TV.
Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in all of Europe, attended by over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate, where midnight fireworks are centered. Germans toast the New Year with a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine) or champagne.
The celebration in London focuses on Big Ben (Westminster Clock Tower) the bell and by association the clock housed in the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. These celebrations are aired by the BBC and other networks.
The largest celebration in Australia is held in its largest city: Sydney. The “Midnight Fireworks” are regularly watched by approximately 1.5–2 million people at Sydney Harbour. As one of the first major New Year’s celebrations globally each year, Sydney’s Midnight Fireworks are often broadcast throughout the world during the day of 31 December.
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, New Year’s fireworks are set off from Jumeirah Beach (including Burj Al Arab) and the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. The New Year fireworks display at Burj Khalifa is among the world’s most expensive.
At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen. A major attraction is The Watched Night bell, in Tokyo.
Mexicans celebrate New Year’s Eve, by eating a grape with each of the twelve chimes of a clock’s bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one.
In some cities of Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico, there is a tradition of making a male doll that is stuffed with memories from the past year, all dressed with the clothes of the outgoing year and is called Mr. Old Year. At midnight, the doll is set on fire symbolizing erasing of the bad memories.
There is a music festival every New Year’s eve in the Antarctic called ‘Icestock’
In Italy, people wear red underwear on New Year’s Day to bring good luck all year long.
Until 2006, the Space Shuttle never flew on New Year’s day or eve because its computers couldn’t handle a year rollover.