New Year's Eve

Celebrated by:

Millions, most of whom are members of that ill-defined entity known as the Western World. (For example, North America, and much of Central and Western Europe, as well as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and many more.)

 

Date:

December 31st - January 1st

 

Next year will be:

2009

 

How to say Happy New Year:

You ready for this one? "Happy New Year!!"

 

History:

The New Year has been a cause for celebration at least as far back as 4000 BC, but the date has changed. Back then, the Babylonians corked their magnums of Cristal around March 23rd. During the first part of the Roman era, cocky Emperors figured out that playing with time was the ultimate power trip, and began adjusting the calendar at their whimsy, until it was out of synch with our favorite source of all life, the sun. In 153 BC the Senate had had quite enough of this egomaniacal behavior, and decreed that January 1 would hereafter be the first official day of the New Year, which presumably led to today's chosen date, right? Not so fast. The emperors couldn't resist, and the date of the New Year continued to play calendrical musical chairs until Julius Caesar put his foot down and said Jan. 1st was IT. That worked for a while. Then, as the Catholic Church expanded, many pre-Christian holidays came to be considered pagan (read: evil and sketchy). For a long while, instead of New Years Day, January 1st was (and still is, in some places) the Feast of Christ's Circumcision. The "New Year" element of New Years Day was condemned through the middle ages until Pope Gregory XII introduced a revised version of Julius Caesar's calendar. And everything's been coming up pink bubbles and noisemakers ever since.

 

Values and traditions:

The modern New Years celebration causes people to do rather predictable but undoubtedly worthwhile things, like mull over the previous year and set goals for the new one. Out with the old, in with the new! This often involves the painful process known as making New Years resolutions, a practice invented by our friends, the Babylonians, way back when Hammurabi was hip. (First time users, fear not. Making resolutions doesn't hurt immediately. It's more in March or April, when you realize how miserably you've failed to keep them, that it starts to sting a little. Apply a little apathy, or perhaps some renewed zeal, and you'll be fine.)

In most nations that celebrate Western New Year, citizens get the day off on January 1st, and people are often willing to spend money and extra vacation time to ensure that the ringing in of next year is a memorable event. Whether joined by families, or friends, or both, the Westerners aim to create New Years Eves that will go down in history.

New Years debauchery officially commences in the afternoon or evening of the 31st, as the masses prepare to watch fireworks with their families, attend concerts or lantern festivals, share a meal, or souse themselves and their buddies with liquor. Really, though, preparations begin earlier in the year, and intensify leading up to the date, as friends start sussing out different possibilities to make the big night extra special this year. Some forward-looking people will plan years ahead, reserving tables at chic restaurants, or hotel bookings in exotic locations, (like Rio, where they party like Armageddon's coming some time in the next ten minutes.)

Though there's no official formula for making merry on the 31st, certain traditions prevail. Whether you're on a boat watching pyrotechnics, or at a banging house party, when the clock strikes 12, you'll probably be singing Auld Lang Syne, a practice borrowed from Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the New Year. If you're with peers, and you've wisely positioned yourself near your crush for the countdown, you're in luck: no-holds-barred smooching is a widely practiced way of bringing in the 'morrow. Hell, kiss several people. Why not? You can even whip out some mistletoe, and keep going all evening, if you're inclined that way. And many revelers enjoy a flute of the bubbly to celebrate 12:01 a.m.

New Years in Times Square, New York City, represents the most iconic New Years destination in North America. Half a million people gather in the square to watch the ball drop, and millions more follow the televised tradition, which has been hosted for most of the past 33 years by Dick Clark. Regis Philbin and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest took over for the night last year, following Clark's December 2004 stroke, and Clark has announced that Seacrest will carry the torch when he retires. Who knew American Idol would yield such a legacy?

Other New Years hot spots: the Eiffel Tower, where an average of 1.2 million people flock to see the gorgeous fireworks display, and Sydney Harbor, where the pyrotechnics light up the entire bay. To really see what New Years looks like around the world check out these really cool New Years Panoramas from around the world.

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New Years Resolutions & Tips

Before the clock strikes, visit our tips on how to make New Years Resolutions to help keep them this year.

Be safe when you celebrate. Our New Years Eve safety tips are always worth repeating.