Everything You Need to Know About New Year’s Eve

New Year's Eve is a celebration with roots around the world. Learn more about the end-of-the-year holiday and its many diverse traditions here.

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Every year, people around the world gather on the night of December 31st to celebrate the start of a new year and commemorate the passing of the old one. While New Year’s Eve is now mainly known for things like its often raucous parties and the ball dropping in Time’s Square, its origins as a holiday actually extend back through history all the way to the ancient Romans. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about NYE, including details of the holiday’s history and a look at how it’s celebrated around the world.

Why Do We Celebrate New Year’s Eve?

Ever since humans began to celebrate the holiday, New Year’s Eve has been seen as a time of rebirth. When Roman emperor Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar to western civilization in 46 B.C., he made January 1st the official start of the new year in honor of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. The Romans celebrated the new year by offering sacrifices to Janus and exchanging gifts with each other. As time passed and the influence of Rome grew, New Year’s Eve celebrations began to take root across other countries and cultures, leading to diverse and varied new year traditions around the world.

New Year’s Eve Traditions

Modern New Year’s Eve traditions largely depend on where you are in the world. There are a few commonalities, like the launching of fireworks at midnight, the singing of celebration songs, and the ritual making of resolutions to carry into the new year.

Other traditions are much more specific to the their individual cultures. In Brazil, everyone wears white on New Year’s Eve because the color is meant to bring good luck. On the other side of the world, people in Denmark are known to smash plates and old dishware in order to ward off bad spirits. Most eastern countries celebrate their new year in different times of the year entirely, basing the holiday around their own lunar calendars instead of the Roman calendar. And, of course, there’s New Year’s Eve in the United States, which is mainly known for the aforementioned dropping of the New Year’s Eve Ball in Times and the tradition of kissing a special someone as the clock strikes midnight.

How NYE Might Be Different During the Pandemic

As with everything in 2020, New Year’s Eve is going to look a little bit different than it has in years past. Due to the nature of the coronavirus pandemic, public travel and gathering spaces will be limited if not closed off entirely. That means that celebrations that might have been shared among large groups of people will likely take on a more personal and private tone this year, which may not ultimately prove to be a bad thing at all (sorry, extroverts). Certain aspects of our traditions may have to change, but the enthusiasm for a fresh start in the new year and a willingness to leave the old year behind will be as strong as ever— if not a little stronger.

New Year’s Eve Safety

It’s always important on New Year’s Eve to remember that even though you may be partying responsibly, not everyone will be. Here are some New Year’s Eve safety tips to keep you and your family safe through the holiday season:

  • If you can, stay home and celebrate with the people you love.
  • Set up a virtual NYE party to stay connected with the people in your life.
  • If you have to travel, arrange safe and sober rides.
  • Be cautious while driving; winter road conditions and drunk drivers are a dangerous combination.
  • Avoid leaving your car anywhere overnight.
  • Leave the fireworks to the experts.

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