New Year’s Eve comes but once a year on December 31, the last day of the last month of what usually feels like the longest year ever but somehow passed too quickly.
Most of us give little thought as to why we ceremoniously say goodbye to one year and hello to a new one on December 31. Even those who don’t make special plans to greet the arrival of a new year at the stroke of midnight on December 31 pay homage to the rite with thoughts of the year gone by and hopes for the year to come.
Why do we end each year on December 31 and begin a new one on January 1 anyway?
When is New Year's Eve 2021?
New Year’s Eve is on December 31, the last day of the year. There are a lot of mixed feelings on this day — it gives us the opportunity to reflect on the past year with all its highs and lows, but we also get ready to party our way into the New Year. Here’s to a new day, new year, and new beginnings!
History of New Year's Eve
New Year’s Eve on December 31 marks the final day of what is known as a Gregorian calendar year. Prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar as the global standard, most of the ancient world ran on many different and diverse calendaring systems to track the passage of time.
The Gregorian calendar we use today was introduced by the Vatican in Rome under Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582. The Gregorian calendar is based on the solar year and replaced an ancient Roman calendar that was based on the lunar cycle of the earth’s moon. The Gregorian calendar is a modified version of the Julian calendar that was introduced by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar during his reign around 44 B.C., at the suggestion of Greek astronomer and mathematician Sosigenes of Alexandria.
The transition from a lunar cycle calendar to a solar year calendar on October 4, 1582, necessitated that a few days be eliminated. The day after October 4, 1582, was therefore declared by Pope Gregory to be October 15, 1582. Don’t ask us what happened to all the poor souls whose birthdays were on October 5 to 14.
Along with the implementation of a new calendar on October 4, 1582, the pope also decreed that each year would officially begin on January 1 instead of April 1 as had been the custom under the old lunar calendar system. This decision had no actual astronomical basis and was influenced by the ancient feast celebrating the Roman god Janus, the god of doorways and beginnings. The first of January seemed like a good starting-over point on a new calendar.
New Year's Eve timeline
Clark continues to host New Year’s Rockin’ Eve until 2004 when he suffers a stroke.
Dick Clark returns to co-host New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.
The annual Times Square New Year’s Eve event is officially changed to Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.
In April 2012, Dick Clark sadly passes away.
New Year's Eve Traditions
On New Year’s Eve, you either breathe a sigh of relief that the year is over or marvel at how it went by in a flash. There are many ways in which people spend this day. Some people stay in and view New Year’s Eve fireworks on their television screens, while others head out and party the night away or enjoy the grand celebrations. Whichever side you are on, one thing is for sure — there is excitement in the air. There are some annual traditions that everyone is especially enthusiastic about, such as the grand celebration and Ball Drop at Times Square in New York, which officially heralds the New Year. And some traditions around the world are believed to bring luck in the New Year, such as toasting a glass of champagne at midnight or eating 365 black-eyed peas for good luck on the first day of the New Year.
New Year's Eve By The Numbers
11,875 pounds — the weight of Time Square’s ball.
360 million — the number of glasses of sparkling wine that are consumed each New Year’s Eve in the U.S.
41% — the amount of Americans who rank New Year’s Eve as their favorite holiday.
12% — the amount of Americans who fall asleep before midnight.
102.1 million — the number of people who travel in order to reach their New Year’s Eve destinations.
$1,160 — the average price for dinner and entertainment for two in New York City on this night.
365 — the number of black-eyed peas one should eat for luck in the new year.
2,688 — the amount of Waterford Crystal triangles that covered the Time’s Square ball in 2019.
1942 — the only year when Times Square remained dark on New Year’s Eve.
67% — the number of Americans who set resolutions on New Year’s Eve.
New Year's Eve FAQs
Do I need to purchase a ticket to see the Ball Drop in person in New York City?
No. The New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square is a free event open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. People line up the day before for the best viewing spots, although chairs are not permitted.
Most restaurants and hotels on Times Square with a view of the Big Ball Drop host private parties that require an invitation or that you purchase a ticket, often a year in advance.
Where on Earth does the clock strike midnight first on New Year’s Eve?
The Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati are the first to ring in the New Year. New Zealand is next, followed by Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
Where is the last place on Earth the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve?
The very last places on our planet where the New Year arrives are in two places: U.S. island territories Baker Island and Howland Island. Both are unoccupied National Wildlife Refuges. The last place where you can celebrate the arrival of a New Year is in another U.S. territory, American Samoa, which is occupied.
New Year's Eve Activities
Head out to a First Night celebration
Local First Night celebrations are family-friendly alternative New Year’s Eve community events that are alcohol and drug-free. Local bands, entertainers, artists, food vendors, schools, churches, and community groups participate or sponsor First Nights, which are open to the public.
Attend Watch Night Mass
Many Christian churches hold a New Year’s Eve service for reflection on the year that has passed while preparing for the new year ahead. New Year’s Eve services are called Watch Night Mass in some denominations.
Be the parents who stay home
Allow your kids to invite friends over for a slumber party so they can stay up late and ring in the New Year together. You won’t get any sleep, but you will be very popular with the other parents who will be free to enjoy an adult night out on New Year’s Eve.
5 Facts About New Year’s Eve
Some families traditionally eat black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Eve as it’s believed to bring good fortune.
The month January is named after the god Janus, who has two faces — one looking forward to the future and one looking back to the past.
A midnight kiss
Kissing at midnight comes from old English and German folklore, saying the first person you come across in the new year could set the tone for the next year.
The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball was first dropped in 1907, weighing 700lbs.
Ahh Real Monsters
To guarantee a year of good luck, firecrackers and noisemakers became tradition in order to scare away evil spirits.
Why We Love New Year's Eve
Kisses at midnight
Kissing your special loved ones at the stroke of midnight is said to bring an entire year of love and affection. Not kissing your loved ones at the stroke of midnight means the opposite for the next 12 months. So pucker up, buttercup!
Letting the old year out of the house
Tradition has it that opening all the windows and doors at midnight allows the stale year out and the fresh year in. Sometimes you need to sweep the old year out the front door if it refuses to leave. We’re not sure what that looks like, but we suggest you keep a broom handy.
The end of Christmas
An early Southern tradition is to spend New Year’s Eve undecorating the Christmas tree then tossing it out the door before the stroke of midnight. No one is sure why, but some say leaving the tree up brings bad luck in the new year. We hear drinking spiked eggnog makes the chore a more palatable and fun way to spend New Year’s Eve.
New Year's Eve dates