New Year’s Day

January 1

The first day of the calendar year.

The Date of New Year

The early Roman calendar used March 1 as NY’s-Day. Later the ancient Romans made Jan. 1 the beginning of the year. During the Middle Ages, most European countries used March 25, a Christian holiday called Annunciation Day, to start the year.

By 1600, many western nations had adopted a revised calendar called the Gregorian calendar. It, the one used today, restored Jan. 1 as NY’s-Day. Great Britain and its colonies in America adopted it in 1752.
Many people celebrate the NY on dates established by their religion. The Jewish NY, Rosh Hashanah, is observed during Sept. or early Oct. Hindus celebrate it on various dates. Muslims use a calendar that has 354 days in most years. As a result, their NY falls on different dates from year to year on the Gregorian calendar.

History and Old Oberservance

Many ancient peoples started the year at harvest time. They performed rituals to do away with the past and purify themselves for the NY. The ancient Persians gave NY’s gifts of eggs, which symbolized productiveness. The ancient Romans gave each other NY’s gifts of branches from sacred trees. In later years they gave gold-covered nuts or coins imprinted with pictures of Janus, the god of gates, doors and beginnings. January was named after this 2 faced god /1 face looking forward 1 looking backward). The Romans also brought gifts to the emperor. The emperors eventually began to demand such gifts. The Celtic priests gave the people branches of mistletoe, which was considered sacred. The Celts took over many NY’s customs from the Romans, who invaded the British Isles in AD 43. In AD 567 the Christian church outlawed this custom and certain other pagan NY’s practices.

By the 1200’s, English rulers had received the Roman custom of asking their subjects for NY’s presents. English husbands gave their wives money to buy pins. This custom disappeared in the 1800’s, however the term pin money still means small amounts of spending money. Many American colonists in New England celebrated the NY by firing guns into the air and shouting, others attended church services or held open house.

Modern Observance

Although it is also a Christian holy day, it has a long secular tradition which makes it a federal public holiday for all Americans.In the US, most of the celebration takes place the night before, on Dec. 31, when people go to parties or watch TV-programs from Times Square in the heart of New York City, where the crowds gather. A large clock displays the countdown in time. At midnight bells ring, sirens sound, firecrackers explode and people shout Happy New Year! and sing Auld Lang Syne.

On Jan. 1 Americans visit friends and relatives or watch TV: The Tournament of Roses parade preceding the Rose Bowl football game in California; or the Orange Bowl in Florida; or the Cotton Bowl in Texas; or the Sugar Bowl in Louisiana.