Why Is New Year’s Day A Holiday? The History Of This Important Day

close up of two flute glasses filled with sparkling wine wuth ribbons and christmas decor

New Year’s Day is a day that marks the start of a new year in many cultures around the world. This particular day has been celebrated for centuries, and its traditions have evolved over time. From its religious roots to its modern secular practices, New Year’s Day has a rich and varied history. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at why New Year’s Day is a holiday for some and explore where the belief that it is a day to be set aside comes from.

women having fun in the bathtub on New Year's day
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

The first New Year’s celebration

The roots of the New Year’s holiday go back to ancient Babylon, around 2000 BC. During this time, the Babylonians would celebrate their New Year by engaging in a 12-day festival that included parties, religious rituals, and offerings to their gods.

In 46 BC, Julius Caesar established January 1st as the official start of the year for the Roman calendar. This marked the first official celebration of the new year. The holiday was celebrated with parties, gifts, feasts, and parades. It was also seen as an opportunity to make resolutions, give to charities, and honor the gods.

During the Middle Ages, new year celebrations were associated with the Christian church and were tied to religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas. In England, the celebration began on March 25th, which was the day when the new year began according to the Julian calendar. On this day, people would exchange gifts and attend feasts and services in churches.

When did the calendar change to January 1st?

The Gregorian calendar reform of 1582 changed the date of the new year to January 1st. In some countries, such as England, it wasn’t until 1752 that the calendar reform took effect, and the celebration of New Year’s Day shifted to January 1st. From this point onward, New Year’s Day has been celebrated on January 1st throughout much of the world. Every culture across the globe celebrates New Year’s Day in different ways. Some cultures give each other gifts or exchange cards; others simply celebrate with family or friends. It is widely believed that making a wish at midnight on New Year’s Eve will grant you luck in the coming year.

What happened during the Civil War?

The Civil War (1861-1865) had a significant impact on the observance of New Year’s Day in America. It was during this period that the calendar officially changed to January 1st, though many still celebrated on April 1st. During the Civil War, New Year’s Day was mostly disregarded by both sides of the conflict. This was because it often fell on or near a battle or skirmish, and time was of the essence for both sides. Additionally, many of the families who were affected by the war chose not to celebrate because of its significance to them as a reminder of their losses. By 1865, with the end of the war in sight, celebrations of New Year’s Day began to become more common, though they were usually limited to local communities and families.

What is the origin of the ball drop in Times Square?

The ball drop in Times Square is an iconic New Year’s Eve tradition that has been around since 1907. The first ball was designed by the owner of a sign-making company and was made of iron and wood. It was adorned with one hundred 25-watt lightbulbs and weighed 700 pounds.

At midnight on December 31st, thousands of people gather in Times Square to watch the ball descend a flagpole located atop the building at One Times Square. As the clock strikes twelve, the ball is dropped, signaling the start of the new year.

The first official ball drop ceremony was held in 1908, but the tradition didn’t become popular until the 1920s. The modern version of the ball drop we know today began in 1995 when a Waterford crystal ball was introduced. The 12-foot sphere weighs 11,875 pounds and is lit up with 32,256 LED bulbs.

The tradition of the ball drop has become so popular that it has inspired similar events around the world. From Sydney to Hong Kong, cities all over the globe have adopted this unique way of celebrating the new year.

Today, the ball drop in Times Square continues to be an annual tradition and a symbol of hope for a prosperous year to come.

How did New Year’s Day become a federal holiday?

New Year’s Day officially became a federal holiday in the United States in 1870. Prior to this, the date had been observed in some states as a state holiday, with some states observing it as a day of rest while others celebrated it with parades and parties. It wasn’t until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971 that New Year’s Day became a national holiday.

This act established holidays on Mondays, which meant that most holidays were celebrated on the same day of the week. The move was designed to give employees more days off throughout the year. Although New Year’s Day isn’t necessarily a religious holiday, the day has taken on a spiritual significance for many people, who may celebrate the start of the new year with special services or events.

Today, New Year’s Day is a federal holiday in the United States and many countries around the world. On this day, many people take time off from work or school and use the day to celebrate with family and friends. As such, New Year’s Day serves as an important symbol for us all, as it marks the start of a new year and provides us with an opportunity to look forward to what lies ahead.–MM




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