Why do we celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day?

Erm, why DO we celebrate New Year? (Picture: Getty)

New Year’s Eve celebrations often begin in the evening, continuing until the moment the clock strikes midnight, meaning it’s January 1. 

Fireworks, champagne flutes, clinking glasses and friendly smooches (in normal, non-2020 years) are commonplace to help ring in the New Year.

But why is New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day so important? And what’s the history behind it?

Here’s what you need to know…

Why do we celebrate New Year?

A new 365-day cycle begins (Picture: Getty)

December 31 is the last day in the Gregorian calendar before a new year begins on January 1.

It’s celebrated all over the world, from the UK and Europe to India and Australia.

Naturally, it marks the beginning of a new 365-day cycle – humans have been doing this for centuries. We even do it with our own birthdays,

Except we often use the New Year as a chance to implement ‘resolutions’, such as to turn over a new leaf, pick up a new habit or get rid of a bad one.

Why is New Year’s Day on January 1?

New Year isn’t always on January 1. Chinese New Year takes place later (Picture: Getty)

It is for lots of people – but that’s not always the case in other countries around the world.

Some countries and cultures place more significance on a lunar cycle for New Year celebrations – such as Chinese New Year in late January and early February.

Nepal, Ethiopia and Iran are just a few examples of countries which honour their own calendars, too.

Different religions mark the New Year on different days, too. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, takes place between September and October.

When did people start celebrating New Year on January 1?

A new year, new start (Picture: Getty Images)

Pope Gregory XIII implemented the Gregorian calendar in 1582, which cemented the current New Year’s Day we know and love.

The Roman calendar had previously set the start of the year as March, though in 46 BC, Julius Caesar changed the date to the day we know now. Still, it took a while to stick, according to LiveScience.

LiveScience also observed that the Earth is closest to the sun in early January. Perhaps a coincidence, or an interesting connection.

History.com, however, puts the oldest New Year celebrations at around 4,000 years old. 

The ancient Babylonians would celebrate Akitu – a massive festival devoted to the vernal equinox, the beginning of a new cycle. 

The vernal equinox was typically on a late March day, with equal darkness and sunlight.

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