Tonga, in the Pacific, is the first to celebrate the New Year, doing so at 10 a.m. GMT on December 31st, making the tiny island nation the first to start a new year. Japan follows a few hours later at 11 a.m., and then China at 12 p.m.
The new year celebration dates back hundreds of years to a time when Europe was still using candles for light. People would make a wish upon a candle and blow it out before sunrise on January 1st. As technology has progressed, so has the way we celebrate the new year. Today, most countries across the world use some form of computer-based technology to mark the beginning of the year.
The date we begin counting the days until the new year is called "New Year's Day". The first day of the year is considered an official holiday in many countries. In others, such as the United States, France, and Italy, this is a paid day off work or school. In the Middle East and North Africa, it is a public holiday held on the first day of the month of Rabia al-Adawiya.
New Year's Eve is the night before New Year's Day. It is the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati are the first Pacific island nations to celebrate the New Year. Japan begins the new year at midnight; the rest of the world continues until then.
America/Canada starts the new year at 12:00 AM EST on January 1st. Europe starts at whatever time it wants, but most countries start between 9:00 and 11:00 AM UTC (which is 5:00 and 7:00 PM local time in America). Africa starts when it wants to start, usually around midday.
Asia starts at some time between the beginning of December and early January. India does not have a fixed starting date, but most authorities say it is somewhere between December 26th and 28th. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka begin later in January.
Oceania starts later than everyone else too. Australia ends up being about six hours behind Asia, which is three hours behind America/Canada, and two hours behind Europe.
The last country to start the new year was Iraq on March 20th. It is unknown what time zone Iraq uses, but it is probably the same as that of Asia. Thus, it starts the new year at the same time as Asia does.
Tonga, Samoa, and Christmas Island/Kiribati are the first to welcome the New Year, while the uninhabited Howland and Baker Islands near the United States are the last. These islands were acquired by the United States in 1846 and 1950, respectively.
New Year's Day is an official public holiday in several countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. It is also a religious observance for Catholics and Lutherans.
Many people will be traveling this year, which means there will be many opportunities for things to go wrong during New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
New Year 2020: The small Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati are the first to celebrate the New Year. These countries wake up to the sound of bells as they begin the year at 0300 UTC (7am EST / 12noon local time).
They do this by observing New Year's Day instead of January 1st, which is common in most other parts of the world. These islands have distinct seasons but they don't observe daylight savings time so there is only one time zone on Tupoula, Saipan, and Rota. On Jan 1, all of them will be waking up at 3am.
The tradition dates back to the early 20th century when American missionaries would ring church bells to mark the beginning of the day. They continued this practice upon returning to their native islands, where it has become part of the culture ever since.
Some countries have adopted the New Year's Day holiday, such as China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Thailand. However, these countries include March 1st as well; therefore, they still have two consecutive months of people being off work.