December 31, 2008
Happy New Year's Eve
New Year's Day is the first day of the new year. On the modern Gregorian calendar, it is celebrated on January 1, as it was also in ancient Rome (though other dates were also used in Rome). In all countries using the Gregorian calendar, except for Israel, it is a public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts. January 1 on the Julian calendar corresponds to January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, and it is on that date that followers of some of the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the New Year.
January 1 marks the end of a period of remembrance of a particular passing year, especially on radio, television, and in newspapers, which usually starts right after Christmas Day. Publications often have year-end articles that review the changes during the previous year. Common topics include politics, natural disasters, music and the arts, and the listing of significant individuals who died during the past year. Often there are also articles on planned or expected changes in the coming year, such as the description of new laws that often take effect on January 1.
This day is traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s has become an occasion for celebration the night of December 31, called New Year's Eve. There are often fireworks at midnight. Depending on the country, individuals may be allowed to burn fireworks, even if it is forbidden the rest of the year.
It is also customary to make New Year's resolutions, which individuals hope to fulfill in the coming year; the most popular ones in the western world include to stop tobacco smoking or drinking alcohol, or to lose weight or get physically fit. Many groups organize Polar Bear Plunges on this day.
Originally observed on March 15 in the old Roman Calendar, New Year's Day first came to be fixed in January 1, 153 BC, when the two Roman consuls, after whom - in the Roman calendar - years were named and numbered, began to be chosen on that date, for military reasons. However, dates in March, coinciding with the first day of spring, or commemorating the Annunciation of Jesus, along with a variety of Christian feast dates were used throughout the Middle Ages, though calendars often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December in the Roman fashion.
Among the 7th-century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands it was the custom to exchange gifts at the New Year, a pagan custom deplored by Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemings and Dutchmen, "[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom]." The quote is from the vita of Eligius written by his companion Oueen..
Most countries in Western Europe officially adopted January 1 as New Year's Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25 (9 months before December 25), was the first day of the new year in England until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752. The March 25th date was called Annunciation Style; the January 1 date was called Circumcision Style, because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, being the eighth day counting from December 25.