The start of a new year has been celebrated since ancient times. Only the date has changed.
When is New Years celebrated?
Today, many people around the world celebrate New Year’s Eve every December 31 and New Year’s Day on January 1.
Two places in the central Pacific Ocean are the first and last to greet the New Year: the island of Kiribati (about 1800 miles southwest of Hawaii) an independent nation of over 100,000 people is first to ring in the New Year. Baker Island (an uninhabited atoll less than 600 miles to the northwest of Kiribati) is the last–as a U.S. National Wildlife refuge, only the birds are there to mark the occasion.
How is New Years celebrated?
New Year’s Eve traditions include parties, drinking champagne, counting down to midnight, kissing someone at midnight, and fireworks displays.
The New York City “ball drop” in Times Square typically hosts over one million people. People begin to gather around 4PM, eventually packing the square to watch a mirrored ball descend from the One Times Square building at 11:59 PM, reaching the base at midnight. The entire crowd chants the countdown as the country watches: “10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”.
Other New Year’s Day traditions include “Polar Bear Dips” — a short swim in icy waters. Other take to the outdoor for a New Year’s Day hikes to enjoy nature. For many, it’s a great day for watching college football bowl games with friends, family, and of course lots of food!
Many people also use the time for reflection and to make New Year’s Resolutions or goals for coming year. Popular goals include those to change bad habits or improve aspects of one’s life such as lose weight, change jobs, or get organized.
New Year traditions
Here are some other common aspects of New Year’s celebrations:
Father Time and Baby New Year
Two common images of the New Year are the bearded “Father Time”, apparently based on the Greek God Chronos. He’s carrying a harvesting scythe and a lantern–but the stories surrounding the meaning are murky at best.
“Baby New Year” is usually adorned with a sash bearing the date of the New Year.
Singing Auld Lang Syne
A Scottish poem set to music became “Auld Lang Syne”. The song is often played at the stroke of midnight.
The meaning of the poem roughly translates to “times gone by.”
The video below sung by Dougie MacLean is a lovely rendition and includes some translation of the Scottish:
New Year Movies
Movies featuring New Year’s Eve scenes include the following chick flicks and beloved classic movies, as well as grim tales. We aimed for at least a couple of movies from every decade in the last century. Most can be streamed or found on disc. Do your due diligence before selecting something to watch and consider your audience. They’re listed in order by year.
- The Gold Rush (1925)
- After the Thin Man (1936)
- Bachelor Mother (1939) or it’s remake Bundle of Joy (1956)
- Junior Miss (1945)
- It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
- The Passionate Friends (1949)
- Sunset Boulevard (PG, 1950)
- An American in Paris (NR, 1951)
- An Affair to Remember (G, 1957), or it’s remake Love Affair (PG-13, 1994)
- The Apartment (PG, 1960)
- Ocean’s 11 (NR, 1960) or it’s remake Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
- The Poseidon Adventure (PG, 1972), considered to be better than it’s remake Poseidon (PG-13, 2006)
- Godfather II (R, 1974)
- Diner (R, 1982)
- Trading Places (R, 1983)
- Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! (G, 1986)
- When Harry Met Sally (R, 1989)
- Bitter Moon (R, 1992)
- Sleepless in Seattle (PG, 1993)
- Waiting to Exhale (R, 1995)
- Boogie Nights (R, 1997)
- Bridget Jones’s Diary (R, 2001)
- Better Luck Tomorrow (R, 2002)
- Rent (PG-13, 2005)
- The Holiday (PG-13, 2006)
- High School Musical (G, 2006)
- Two Lovers (R, 2008)
- New Year’s Eve (PG-13, 2011)
- Fruitvale Station (R, 2013)
Other cultural and religious New Year celebrations
As the saying goes, every day is essentially the start of a new year and the rest of your life. So any day can be a time to celebrate with friends, to reflect on the past, and look forward to what comes next.
The date January 1 is truly arbitrary. Other cultures celebrate the start of a New Year at other times.
The Jewish New Year’s festival, Rosh Hashanah, uses the lunar calendar and pegs the celebration sometime in September or October.
The Islamic New Year shifts several months over time since the Hijri Lunar Calendar is 354 days.
Many other cultures celebrate Chinese Lunar New year, which occurs sometime in late January or early February. Read more about Chinese New Year on our Lunar New Year event page.
Calendar of New Year’s events
Listed below are free and cheap things to do New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
Friday, December 31, 2021
Saturday, January 1, 2022