What is New Year’s history?

What is New Year’s history?

From the hugs to the fireworks to the dinners to the toasts; the New Year celebration has indeed become a tradition. Although many of us partake in it, how well do we know the history of this age-long tradition? This article aims at shedding light on new year’s history, so stay tuned!

New Year is the time that begins a new calendar year. Typically, it is celebrated on the first of January. Festivities begin on December 31st and spill over to January 1st. New Year tradition is characterized by attending parties, eating special food, watching fireworks, ball-drop at New York City’s Time Square, making resolutions etcetera.

Origin of New Years

New Year’s history can be dated back to as early as 4000 years ago. The origin of new years is attributed to the ancient Babylonians. The Babylonians believed that the first new moon after the vernal equinox signified the beginning of a new year (Vernal equinox marks the first day of spring when day and night are equal in length). In honour of the new year, the Babylonians marked an 11-day old religious festival named Akitu. Through the course of this festival, a different ritual was assigned to each day. Akitu festival wasn’t limited to the celebration of the new year, it was also to celebrate the victory of the sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat. In addition to the celebration, this festival also served a political purpose. During this period, a new king is crowned or the previous king is allowed to continue his reign. 

The new year wasn’t always marked on January 1st. Emperor Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar and instituted January 1st as the first day of the year in honor of Janus. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings. He was depicted as having two faces looking in opposite directions, one looking to the future and the other to the past.


At the beginning of the year, many people make pledges or set goals they aim to achieve during the year. New Years' resolution history can also be ascribed to the Babylonians. During the Akitu festival, the Babylonians made pledges to settle their debts and return borrowed items. They believed that if they kept to their promises, their gods would favor them the following year. 

Also, the ancient Romans had a similar tradition. For the new year, the Romans offered sacrifices to their god and made pledges of good conduct for the coming year. 

The evening of the last day of the year, December 31st is just as symbolic as New Year’s Day. Characterized by activities that continue to New Year's Day. The history of new years eve traditions are outlined below

  • Ball drop 

A large number of people come around to witness the ball drop at New York City’s time square. The first ball-drop was in 1907 and is symbolic of time balls used for sea navigation.

  • New Year’s Kiss

Some attribute this tradition to the 19th-century German immigrants. Some also ascribe this tradition to ancient Rome where debaucherous parties were held every year with lots of alcohol and kissing. Nowadays, people have the superstitious belief that this kiss strengthens relationships you intend to maintain in the future.

  • Auld Lang Syne

Although not understood by many Americans, singing this song on Christmas Eve has become a tradition. Many say it is of Scottish origin; however, it was first written down by Robert Burns in 1788. It became cemented into the New Years' eve tradition when a band led by Guy Lombardo sang it on a New Year’s Eve show on a radio broadcast.

New Year celebration is indeed worth looking forward to. Being with loved ones, setting resolutions, making toasts, and being optimistic about the new year is refreshing. As we go about our various New Year and New Year’s Eve tradition, knowing about new year history facts should also be considered.