New Year is the time at which a new calendar year begins and the calendar’s year count is incremented. In many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner.[1] The New Year of the Gregorian calendar, today in worldwide use, falls on 1 January (New Year’s Day), as was the case with the Roman calendar. There are numerous calendars that remain in regional use that calculate the New Year differently.
The order of months in the Roman calendar was January to December since King Numa Pompilius in about 700 BC, according to Plutarch and Macrobius. It was only relatively recently that 1 January again became the first day of the year in Western culture. Until 1751 in England and Wales (and all British dominions) the new year started on 25 March – Lady Day, one of the four quarter days (the change to 1 January took place in 1600 in Scotland).[2] Since then, 1 January has been the first day of the year. During the Middle Ages several other days were variously taken as the beginning of the calendar year (1 March, 25 March, Easter, 1 September, 25 December). In many countries, such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain and the UK, 1 January is a national holiday.
For information about the changeover from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar and the effect on the dating of historical events etc., see Old Style and New Style dates.
With the expansion of Western culture to many other places in the world during recent centuries, the Gregorian calendar has been adopted by many other countries as the official calendar, and the 1 January date of New Year has become global, even in countries with their own New Year celebrations on other days (such as Israel, China and India). In the culture of Latin America there are a variety of traditions and superstitions surrounding these dates as omens for the coming year. The most common modern dates of celebration are listed below, ordered and grouped by their appearance relative to the conventional Western calendar.
Historical Christian new year dates
During the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire years began on the date on which each consul first entered office. This was probably 1 May before 222 BC, 15 March from 222 BC to 154 BC, and 1 January from 153 BC. In 45 BC, when Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, and fixed 1 January as the first day of the year.
Later, with the dominance of Christianity, various dates for the New Year which had special significance to Christianity were adopted. For example, 1 January was associated with the incarnation of God’s son, Christ; 25 March was Annunciation Day or Lady Day. This is the day when Mary was informed by the Angel Gabriel that she would bear God’s son Jesus.
When William the Conqueror took over the reins of England, he ordered that 1 January be established as the New Year to collaborate it with his coronation and with the circumcision of Jesus (on the eighth day from his birth on December 25). However, this was abandoned later as they joined the rest of the Christian world to celebrate New Year on 25 March.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII while reforming the Julian calendar established 1 January as the beginning of a New Year of the Gregorian calendar.
In the Middle Ages in Europe a number of significant feast days in the ecclesiastical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church came to be used as the beginning of the Julian year:
• In Modern Style or Circumcision Style dating, the new year started on 1 January, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.
• In Annunciation Style or Lady Day Style dating the new year started on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation (traditionally named Lady Day). This was used in many parts of Europe in the Middle Ages. This style continued to be used officially in the Kingdom of Great Britain until 1 January 1752, except Scotland which changed to Modern Style dating on 1 January 1600, the Act being passed on 17 December 1599. The rest of Great Britain changed to Modern Style on 1 January preceding the conversion in Great Britain from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar on 3/14 September 1752. The UK tax year still starts on 6 April which is 25 March + 12 days, eleven for the conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar plus a dropped leap day in 1800 [but not in 1900, although that year also featured a dropped leap day].
• In Easter Style dating, the new year started on Easter Saturday (or sometimes on Good Friday). This was used all over Europe, but especially in France, from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. A disadvantage of this system was that because Easter was a movable feast the same date could occur twice in a year; the two occurrences were distinguished as “before Easter” and “after Easter”.
• In Christmas Style dating the new year started on 25 December. This was used in Germany and England until the thirteenth century, and in Spain from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century.
Adoption of 1 January
It took quite a long time before 1 January again became the universal or standard start of the civil year. The years of adoption of 1 January as the new year are as follows:
Country Start year
Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus
Holy Roman Empire (~Germany)
Spain, Portugal, Poland
Prussia, Denmark[] and Norway
France (Edict of Roussillon)
Southern Netherlands[]
Dutch Republic
Britain, Ireland and
British Empire
except Scotland
1 March was the first day of the numbered year in the Republic of Venice until its destruction in 1797, and in Russia from 988 until 1492 (AM 7000). 1 September was used in Russia from 1492 until the adoption of the Christian era in 1700 via a December 1699 decree of Tsar Peter I (previously, Russia had counted years since the creation of the world—Anno Mundi).
Southward equinox day (usually 22 September) was “New Year’s Day” in the French Republican Calendar, which was in use from 1793 to 1805. This was primidi Vendémiaire, the first day of the first month.
Time zones
Because of the division of the globe into time zones, the new year moves progressively around the globe as the start of the day ushers in the New Year. The first time zone to usher in the New Year is just west of the International Date Line. At that time the time zone to the east of the Date Line is 23 hours behind, still in the previous day. The central Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati claims that its easternmost landmass, uninhabited Caroline Island, is the first to usher in the New Year.

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  1. Pingback: NewYear’s Day | David's Commonplace Book

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