When did it start?
The earliest known record of a New Year observance was in Egypt around 2773 BC. Historians recorded that the year began when -- after it had not been visible for several months -- the star Sirius first became visible above the eastern horizon for a brief moment just before sunrise.
The star’s appearance usually coincided with the start of the flood period of the Nile and came not long after the longest day of the year, the summer solstice in June, according to Encyclopedia Americana. Ancient Phoenicians and Persians began their new year with the autumn equinox in September 21 – when night and day are equal. The Greeks observed their new year with the winter solstice in December – the shortest day of the year.
Today, the Chinese New Year is celebrated officially for a month beginning in late January or early February.
The Muslim New Year falls on the first day of the month of Muharram. Since the Muslim year consists of only 354 days, the new year constantly changes from winter to spring to summer and fall. The Jewish New Year is observed during September or early October. Hindus in different parts of India celebrate the new year on various dates.
For the ancient Romans, the year began on March 1 -- but after 153 BC, it was shifted to January 1.
In medieval times most of Christian Europe regarded March 25, Annunciation Day, the day the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, as the beginning of the year.
When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, January 1 was restored as New Year’s Day by the Catholic church. Scotland did not adopt the new calendar until 1660, Germany and Denmark around 1700, England and the American colonies in 1752 and Russia not until 1918 after the Bolshevik Revolution.