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 January 1 anyway?
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 – 14 prior to the year 1582.
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
Dick Clark’s last New Year’s Eve appearance
On April 2012, Dick Clark sadly passed away
Clark and Seacrest Eve
The annual Times Square New Year’s Eve event is officially changed to “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest”
Return of the Clark
Dick Clark returns to co-host New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest
Dick Clark hosts New Year’s Rockin’ Eve
Clark continued to host until 2004 when he suffered a stroke
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 place on our planet where the New Year arrives is 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 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, church and community groups participate or sponsor First Nights, which are open to the public.
Attend Watchnight 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 Watchnight 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 Time 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 twelve 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