The start of a new year has been celebrated since ancient times. Only the date has changed. 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 nation of Kiribati (about 1800 miles southwest of Hawaii) is first to ring in the New Year, and Baker Island (less than 600 miles to the northwest of Kiribati).
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 features over one million people. They begin to gather begin around 4PM, packing the square to watch a mirrored ball descend from the One Times Square building at 11:59 PM, reaching the base at midnight, with the entire crowd chanting the countdown as the country watches: “10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEAR”.
New Year’s Day traditions include “Polar Bear Dips”–short jaunts into icy waters, New Year’s Day hikes–to enjoy nature and the outdoors, and watching college football bowl games with friends, family, and food. Many people also use this time to reflect and make New Year’s Resolutions or goals for coming year, typically those to change bad habits or improve other aspects of one’s life such as lose weight, change jobs, or get organized.
Here are some other common aspects of New Year’s celebrations:
- Two common images of the New Year are the bearded “Father Time”, apparently based on the Greek God Chronos and “Baby New Year”. He’s carrying a harvesting scythe and a lantern–but the stories surrounding the meaning are murky at best. The baby is usually adorned with a sash bearing the date of the New Year.
- Movies featuring New Year’s Eve scenes include these chick-flicks: When Harry Met Sally, Sex in the City: the Movie, Sleepless in Seattle, Waiting to Exhale, The Holiday, and An Affair to Remember (1957) or it’s remake Love Affair (1994). On a more somber note, try: Sunset Boulevard, The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Apartment, Ocean’s 11 (1960 version), Godfather II.
- A Scottish poem set to music becomes “Auld Lang Syne”, often played at the stroke of midnight. It roughly translates to “times gone by.” The video below sung by Dougie MacLean is a lovely rendition and includes some translation of the Scottish:
Of course, the date January 1 is arbitrary. 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 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 January or February. Read more about Chinese New Year on our Lunar New Year event page.
Calendar of New Years Eve events
The events listed below include free and cheap things to do on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If there is nothing listed here, we haven’t yet begun to update the calendar for this year. We usually begin updating sometime in the fall as organizers announce upcoming events.
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Wednesday, January 1, 2020