New Year’s Day is a national holiday celebrated on January 1st, the first day of the New Year, following both the Gregorian and the Julian calendar. This New Years’ holiday is often marked by fireworks, parades, and reflection upon the last year while looking ahead to the future’s possibilities. Many people celebrate New Year’s in the company of loved ones, involving traditions meant to bring luck and success in the upcoming year. Many Cultures celebrate this happy day in their own unique way. Typically the customs and traditions of happy New Year’s Day involve celebrating with champagne and a variety of different foods. New Year’s marks a date of newly found happiness and a clean slate. For many celebrating New Years, it is their opportunity to learn from the prior year and make positive changes in their life.
New Year’s Day Holiday History:
New Year’s is one of the oldest holidays still celebrated, but the exact date and nature of the festivities has changed over time. It originated thousands of years ago in ancient Babylon, celebrated as an eleven day festival on the first day of spring. During this time, many cultures used the sun and moon cycle to decide the “first” day of the year. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar implemented the Julian calendar that January 1st became the common day for the celebration. The content of the festivities has varied as well. While early celebrations were more paganistic in nature, celebrating Earth’s cycles, Christian tradition celebrates the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ on New Year’s Day. Roman Catholics also often celebrate Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and a feast honoring Mary. However, in the twentieth century, the holiday grew into its own celebration and mostly separated from the common association with religion. It has become a holiday associated with nationality, relationships, and introspection rather than a religious celebration, although many people do still follow older traditions.
A History of the Months:
The original Roman year had 10 named months Martius “March”, Aprilis “April”, Maius “May”, Junius “June”, Quintilis “July”, Sextilis “August”, September “September”, October “October”, November “November”, December “December”, and probably two unnamed months in the dead of winter when not much happened in agriculture. The year began with Martius “March”. Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome circa 700 BC, added the two months Januarius “January” and Februarius “February”. He also moved the beginning of the year from Marius to Januarius and changed the number of days in several months to be odd, a lucky number. After Februarius there was occasionally an additional month of Intercalaris “intercalendar”. This is the origin of the leap-year day being in February. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar (hence the Julian calendar) changing the number of days in many months and removing Intercalaris.
New Year’s Day Resolutions and Traditions:
While celebration varies all over the world, common traditions include:
- Making resolutions or goals to improve one’s life.
- Common resolutions concern diet, exercise, bad habits, and other issues concerning personal wellness. A common view is to use the first day of the year as a clean slate to improve one’s life.
- A gathering of loved ones: Here you’ll typically find champagne, feasting, confetti, noise makers, and other methods of merriment Fireworks, parades, concerts.
- Famous parades include London’s New Year’s Day Parade and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Superstitions concerning food or visitors to bring luck.
This especially includes circle-shaped foods, which symbolize cycles. The reasoning behind superstitions is that the first day of the year sets precedent for the following days. A common superstition specific to New Year’s Day concerns a household’s first visitor of the year—tradition states that if a tall, dark-haired stranger is the first to walk through your door, called the First Footer or Lucky Bird, you’ll have good luck all year. Also, if you want to subscribe to superstition, don’t let anything leave the house on New Year’s, except for people. Tradition say’s: don’t take out the trash and leave anything you want to take out of the house on New Year’s outside the night before. If you must remove something, make sure to replace it by bringing an item into the house. These policies of balance apply in other areas as well—avoiding paying bills, breaking anything, or shedding tears.
Toasts typically concern gratefulness for the past year’s blessings, hope and luck or the future, and thanking guests for their New Year’s company. In coastal regions, running into a body of water or splashing water on one another, symbolizing the cleansing, “rebirth” theme associated with the holiday.
Best Places to Celebrate New Year’s Eve around the World:
New Year’s Eve is a global celebration and you’ll find a party happening on every continent. With so many exciting hotspots, the only issue is choosing where to celebrate. Here are ten destinations where you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable NYE experience.
- Rio de Janeiro:
With warm, sunny weather, panoramic views and a seductive samba beat, New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is life affirming. Festivities here are on par with the city’s famous Carnival, and the ultimate celebration is at Copacabana Beach where an estimated two million revellers congregate for music, swimming, football, barbecues and a massive fireworks display. Smaller beaches such as Ipanema and Flamengo, meanwhile, are also worth considering. The restaurants along Copacabana fill up quickly so early booking is advisable if you want to schedule a NYE dinner. Try Rio institution Bip Bip for live music and local favourite Pavão Azul for its octopus rice and batida de coco, a cocktail made from coconut cream, condensed milk and cachaça (spirit from fermented sugarcane juice).
- New York City:
Times Square, with its famous, glittering Ball Drop is one of NYE’s most iconic gatherings, though queues for this tend to start from noon on 31 December. With performances and a midnight rendition of New York, New York, it’s the place to be on NYE, but it’s not the only party destination. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is arguably a better place to see the fireworks, or you can soak up the Manhattan skyline with a river cruise for fireworks, fun and food. New York rooftop bars are another great location in which to party. Magic Hour is the city’s largest indoor/outdoor rooftop and features an urban amusement part and Empire State Building views.
Experience an alternative New Year’s Eve in Tokyo and see in 2020 the Japanese way with a visit one of the city’s temples for the ringing of the bell ritual. At midnight a monk rings the temple bell 108 times, which correlates to the number of worldly desires recognised by Japanese Buddhism, purifying participants. The ancient temple of Zōjō-ji, which dates back to 1393, draws both locals and tourists for the hatsumōde, a pilgrimage to visit first shrine of the New Year. If you’d prefer more of a party atmosphere, Yokohoma across Tokyo Bay offers laser and light shows, and countdown cruises around the bay. The Roppongi area is another NYE hotspot, with plenty of countdown events and all the tunes.
- Cape Town:
Cape Town is just coming into summer at New Year’s Eve, making it an ideal time to visit. It’s a spectacularly beautiful destination and all your NYE options here are exciting. The V&A Waterfront holds the biggest party of the year, a free event with musical performances, light shows and great food from more than 80 restaurants and food trucks. You can also take a cruise around the harbour to see the last sunset of 2019 and, if you want the perfect viewpoint for the fireworks, take a cable car and come armed with a picnic to the top of Table Mountain.
All eyes are on Sydney for New Year’s Eve. The 2018/19 fireworks in Sydney were watched by one million people along the harbour and one billion people worldwide. There are vantage points around the city, and you can check online what time they’re likely to get full and whether you can drink alcohol there. Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is a fabulous venue in which to celebrate the new decade, as is Sydney Harbour National Park, with a choice of parties on the three islands or parks either side of the harbour. A very glamorous option is a night at Sydney Opera House where Puccini’s La Bohème and a performance by Opera Australia are scheduled.
Another city renowned for its high-octane nightlife, the Thai capital doesn’t disappoint on 31 December. The CentralWorld Plaza in Bangkok is the focus for much of the revelry, with a beer garden and live entertainment, while open air night market Asiatique is another popular NYE destination, where restaurants offer special menus for the evening. There are lots of wildly impressive rooftop bars and restaurants to choose from in Bangkok, and you can certainly reach for the stars at the Lebua hotel at State Tower. It has four altitude-defying restaurants and bars and claims to have the world’s highest outdoor bar. If you’re looking for a romantic evening, take a river cruise on a converted rice barge and feast on a 10-course Thai dinner.
Dubai certainly knows how to throw a party. The fireworks display at the Burj Khalifa is so bright that it can be seen across the Emirates and there are numerous great locations from which to enjoy them, including the breath-taking Kite Beach, where you can bring a picnic. Glamorous galas and gourmet soirees abound such as at the opulent Atlantis with free flowing champagne, live cooking stations and a monolithic fireworks display, as well as the highly anticipated party at Zero Gravity, which features a “ritual zone” with a silent rave and edible bubbles. It seems remiss not to visit Dubai and do a little shopping, in which the Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall can provide the retail experience of dreams.
- St Petersburg:
Moscow is known for its epic New Year’s Eve parties. However, if you want to experience a slightly quieter Russian celebration, the beautiful city of St Petersburg is a winter wonderland. The official fireworks take place in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress on the banks of the Neva River, and Palace Square in front of the State Hermitage Museum is where to join the masses. Other must-visits are the Strelka with stunning views of the city and Catherine Palace, the summer residence of the tsars, 25km outside of the city. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is a Christmas staple all around the world and in St Petersburg you can see it at the Mariinsky Theatre, where it was first performed in 1892.
- Québec City:
Temperatures average -9°C in Québec City in winter but it warms up on New Year’s Eve thanks to heated terraces and outdoor fireplaces. Sipping on Quebec’s caribou, a combination of red wine, hard liquor and maple syrup can also help. The main NYE party is at Grande Allée, with live bands, dancing in the streets, Ferris wheels and fireworks, and Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale is where you’ll find a big open-air dance floor on New Year’s Eve. Sample some of Québec’s famous cuisine at Auberge Saint Antoine’s Chez Muffy restaurant, which features regional produce. But before that, work up an appetite by tobogganing at Terrasse Dufferin Slides or by skating under the stars on the ice rink at Place d’Youville.
- Las Vegas:
The Las Vegas Strip becomes party-central on New Year’s Eve, as it closes off traffic from 6pm so visitors can take to the streets for the world’s biggest block party. The fireworks display is choreographed from seven different casino roofs, lighting up the Nevada sky. As well as the Strip, the Freemont street party is always worth catching, with pyrotechnics, bands and an EDM stage with aerialists and dancers, and an appearance by Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman. This year you can rock out to some of the hottest entertainers around with shows from Lady Gaga at Park MGG; Maroon 5 at Mandalay Bay; and Christina Aguilera at Planet Hollywood. Another great way to see in 2020 is to book a pod on the High Roller the world’s tallest observation wheel for impressive views of Sin City.
What Do People Do?
New Year’s Eve is a day of mixed feelings for many people. On one hand, it is a time to celebrate the end of the year gone by and welcome what is in store in the New Year. On the other hand, some people experience a sense of nostalgia as they reflect on the events that took place in their lives in the past 12 months. Many people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions at this time of the year.
Some people celebrate New Year’s Eve by attending midnight church services, while others gather around in public venues such as Times Square in New York City, or Trafalgar Square in London to count down for the closing seconds of the old year. Many people hold parties to bid farewell to the finishing year and to celebrate the New Year. The size of festive events for New Year’s Eve can vary in size and theme. Some people attend formal masquerade balls while others have costume parties. Some people have small parties or gatherings at their homes. Many New Year’s Eve celebrations are highlighted by firework displays.
Many people start counting down to New Year’s Day in the last minute or seconds before the last night of the year ends and the New Year begins. Some people tune into watching televised countdowns. As the clock strikes midnight into New Year’s Day, many people celebrate this event by exchanging hugs, kisses, and wish each other a “Happy New Year”. In some parts of the world, including in the United States, many people sing the Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne” during the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
New Year’s Eve is one of the largest global celebrations because it marks the last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, December 31, before the New Year. Count down to the New Year no matter where you are in the world.