New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve (the 31st of December) is the final night of the calendar year. It’s celebrated worldwide, usually with fireworks and a big party.
History of New Year Celebrations Around the World
What is New Year’s Eve? New Year’s Eve is one of the most significant occasions in the calendar year for most places in the world, which means there’s a fascinating history surrounding how it’s celebrated, stretching back to the start of recorded history.
There are also multiple ways people celebrate the new year, whether it be fireworks in a city through our modern-day era or Spain’s tradition for people to stay at home, at least until midnight, and they like to see in the New Year by eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. But, no matter how the new year is celebrated, there is something different and unique about it.
The Babylonians were the first to celebrate New Year in some shape or form. We don’t know much about what they did, but maybe they had a big party at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The earliest record of a New Year’s celebration comes over 4,000 years ago from the ancient Babylonians. They didn’t celebrate New Year at the same time we do, though. Instead, the New Year was marked by a big celebration at the spring equinox. To the rest of us, that’s the point of the year when the days become longer than the nights. Because they lived in the Northern Hemisphere, this was usually some point in late March.
The Babylonians knew how to party. They celebrated the New Year with an 11-day festival involving a different ritual each day. This is not much known, but what we know is pretty exciting. The festival was called Akitu and celebrated the victory of the sky god, Marduk, over the evil sea goddess, Tiamat.
The Romans were the first to celebrate New Year’s Day on 1st January, thanks to a confident Julius Caesar.
Though we might think of the Romans as belonging to ancient history, they cropped up a whopping 1,500 years after the earliest traces of Babylonia! Anyway, they loved a good New Year’s party too. So they were also the first people to celebrate New Year’s Day when we did, on 1st January.
There’s a good reason for this. The Roman calendar was initially aligned with the sun but fell out of sync over time. So, to bring it back up to speed, Caesar added 90 days! This is the equivalent of roughly two extra months. As part of this, it was decided that each year would start at the beginning of Janus, after the god of new beginnings.
The Middle Ages
The start of the New Year changed again in the Middle Ages, but it didn’t stay like this for long.
In medieval Christian Europe, the leaders of the Church didn’t like the idea of the New Year being celebrated on a Roman feast day, so they played a little with the dates. At first, they changed the start of the year to the 25th of December, and then, deciding that Christmas is best left alone, to the 25th of March. Eventually, Pope Gregory XIII realized there was nothing wrong with the old way of celebrating New Year, so he changed the date to the 1st of January in 1582.
And there you have it, a short history of New Year celebrations worldwide! If you’d like to learn more about how the big day is celebrated in the 21st century, you might want to keep reading…
New Year Celebrations Around the World Today
Spain has the tastiest way to celebrate New Year’s Eve if you like grapes!
New Year’s Eve is known as Noche Vieja in Spain and a few other Spanish-speaking countries. This is because it’s traditional for people to stay at home, at least until midnight, and they like to see the New Year by eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. This symbolizes their hopes and dreams for the year to come. It also sounds pretty tasty too… There are big parties in many towns across the country, but the most famous one is in Madrid, in the Puerta del Sol.
Over in Italy, New Year’s Eve is known as La Festa di San Silvestro, the feast day of Saint Sylvestre. Like many countries, families gather for a meal, which usually features pork and lentils. After dinner, it’s time to head to the streets for a big ol’ party. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a big city like Rome, Milan or Naples, you can expect to see a big fireworks show.
Oh, and don’t forget to wear red underwear! Some people in Italy believe that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve can bring you good luck. You’ll see loads for sale at the December markets!
Times Square is home to the world’s most famous New Year’s Eve party.
In the US, New Year’s Eve is celebrated in much the same way as it is here in Australia. Families get together for a special meal with a whole load of fireworks. New York is home to the world’s most famous New Year’s celebration. Each year, thousands of party-goers gather in Manhattan to see the famous Times Square Ball (pictured above) being lowered at the stroke of midnight. The ball is made of Waterford Crystal, a patterned glass, so let’s hope no one ever drops it!
In China and a few other countries in South East Asia, New Year is celebrated at the start of the lunar calendar, which, in 2022, falls on the 1st of February. The festival lasts over two weeks, ending with the traditional Lantern Festival. Because there are significant Chinese and Asian communities in many countries worldwide, most cities will have some kind of Chinese New Year celebration, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on the fun.
If you’re in Sydney for New Year’s Eve, get to the harbor for a dazzling fireworks display!
Because Australia is in the far reaches of the Eastern Hemisphere, we’re one of the first places in the world to experience the New Year. However, people in other countries, like the UK, often wake up to pictures of people having fun at Sydney Harbour Bridge. Each year, the party has a theme. In previous years, this has been “we are one” and “unity,” but the theme for 2022’s event is still undecided.