New Year's Eve

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Although there are many celebrations of the new year around the world, the most globally-celebrated event is that of the turning of the Gregorian calendar year on December 31st, called New Year's Eve. The first day of the new year, New Year's Day, follows on January 1st.

Methods of celebrating or "ringing in" the New Year vary. It is common to have a toast to the New Year at midnight. People typically kiss, embrace or shake hands at midnight as well. In English-speaking countries, Robert Burns's song "Auld Lang Syne" is typically played or sung. Some people attend private parties or public balls. Others have dinner with friends, with or without party or parlour games; these often have a reflective theme, such as going round the table asking and answering questions. A minority spend New Year's Eve in church at special Watchnight services.

Some municipalities hold public events, such as outdoor concerts, often culminating with fireworks displays. Public transportation is now often free during such events, due to concerns about people drinking and driving. A recent and growing trend in the United States has been to hold major organized "First Night" celebrations, with music, dance, ice sculpture, and other cultural events. The original First Night was held in Boston in 1976, but has since spread to many other cities.

In some parts of early modern Europe, including Scotland and France, it was a New Year's Eve tradition for people, especially children, to go from house to house asking for small gifts such as an oatmeal cake. Often the demand was made by calling out a special word (such as "hogmanay" in Scots).[1]

"Hogmanay" is also an alternate name for the holiday in Scotland. In German-speaking countries the day is sometimes called "Sylvester," because December 31 is the feast day of Saint Sylvester, a fourth-century pope.

There are various iconic celebrations of New Year's Eve around the world, some of which have become prominent on TV news media coverage; including fireworks at Sydney Harbour and revelers entering the freezing waters of the fountain at Trafalgar Square in London. The dropping of a ball at Times Square in New York City is a particularly famous example.

Although New Year's Eve is usually a joyous and optimistic time of year, the fact that it falls during Christmastide (the holidays surrounding Christmas) can cause emotional distress for some. Suicide rates are high during the holidays, and seeing other people apparently joyous and happy and surrounded by friends and family can increase feelings of isolation and depression and loneliness. It is advisable for those who are susceptible to make concrete plans for the evening.

A New Year's Eve countdown clock can be kept on your computer desktop.[2]

Footnotes