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About New Years

In the United States, thousands of people jam Times Square in New York City to welcome the New Year at midnight. The transition between New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is an exciting one. In Times Square, people countdown the seconds to welcome the new day as the New Year ball slowly descends and lights up the area.

Not all countries or cultures celebrate New Year on January 1st. The Chinese, Egyptian, Jewish, Roman, and Mohammedan years all have different start dates. Chinese New Year starts on a different day each year. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians celebrated their New Year about the middle of June. That was the time when the Nile River usually overflowed. January 1 is became recognized as New Year's Day in the 1500's when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced. The Julian Calendar places the New Year on January 14. The Jewish New Year, a feast day, is celebrated about the time of the fall equinox, in late September.

In ancient Rome, the first day of the New Year honored Janus - the god of gates and doors and beginnings and endings. The month of January was named after this god. Janus had two faces. One looked ahead to see what the new year will bring and the other looked backward to see what happened during the past year. So this is how the Romans celebrated. They also gave their friends gifts. Often gifts were given to Senators in exchange for favors.

In England, Druid priests celebrated their New Years on March 10. They gave branches of mistletoe to people for charms. Later, English people followed the custom of cleaning their chimneys on New Year's Day. The English believed this brought good luck to the household for the coming year. The expression "cleaning the slate" came from this custom. It means making resolutions to correct faults and bad habits. People resolve to make themselves better in the New Year. It is still custom today to make a list of resolutions.

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