In the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Eve (also Saint Silvester's Day in many countries), the last day of the year, is on December 31. In many countries, New Year's Eve is celebrated at evening social gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages, and watch or light fireworks to mark the new year. Some people attend a watchnight service.The celebrations generally go on past midnight into January 1 (New Year's Day).
Island nations of Kiribati and Samoa are the first to welcome the New Year while Honolulu, Hawaii is among the last places to welcome the New Year.
New Year traditions and celebrations in Canada vary regionally. New Year's Eve (also called New Year's Eve Day or Veille du Jour de l'An in French) is generally a social holiday. In many cities there are large celebrations which may feature concerts, late-night partying, sporting events, and fireworks, with free public transit service during peak party times in most major cities. In some areas, such as in rural Quebec, people ice fish and drink alcoholic beverages with their friends until the early hours of January 1.
From 1956 to 1976, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians serenaded Canada on the CBC, via a feed from CBS, from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. After Lombardo's death in 1977, the Royal Canadians continued on CBC and CBS until 1978.
In 1992, the sketch comedy troupe Royal Canadian Air Farce began airing its annual Year of the Farce special on CBC Television, which features sketches lampooning the major events and news stories of the year. While the original 1992 edition was a one-off special, Year of the Farce episodes continued as a regular feature of the Air Farce television series which ran from 1993 to 2008—airing its series finale on December 31, 2008. Following the finale of the television series, the original cast continued to participate in New Year's Eve specials in the years following.
Similarly in Quebec, Télévision de Radio-Canada also airs a yearly New Year's Eve comedy special, Bye Bye, which has been produced by various comedians since its original run from 1968–1998, and its revival by Québécois troupe Rock et Belles Oreilles in 2006. Its 2008 edition, hosted and co-produced by Québécois television personality Véronique Cloutier, became infamous for several sketches that many viewers perceived as offensive, including sketches making fun of English Canadians and then American president-elect Barack Obama.
Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve, (Spanish: Vispera de Año Nuevo) by eating a grape with each of the twelve chimes of a clock's bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties in colors that represent wishes for the upcoming year: red encourages an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow encourages blessings of improved employment conditions, green for improved financial circumstances, and white for improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient of the slice with the coin or charm is said to be blessed with good luck in the New Year. Another tradition is to make a list of all the bad or unhappy events over the past 12 months; before midnight, this list is thrown into a fire, symbolizing the removal of negative energy from the new year. At the same time, thanks are expressed for all the good things during the year that is ending so that they will continue in the new year.
Mexicans celebrate with a late-night dinner with their families, the traditional meal being turkey and mole. Afterwards many people attend parties outside the home, for example, in night clubs. In Mexico City there is a street festival on New Year's Eve centered around the Zocalo, the city's main square. Celebrations include firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers and shouts of "¡Feliz año nuevo!"
In Puerto Rico, New Year's Eve is celebrated with friends and family. The Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan is the main attraction for Puerto Ricans during the celebration. It has Latin music, fireworks at midnight along with the signature song "Auld Lang Syne" in Spanish, and great recipes.
In the United States, New Year's Eve is celebrated with formal parties and family-oriented activities.
One of the most prominent New Year's celebrations in the country is the "ball drop" held in New York City's Times Square. Inspired by the time balls that were formally used as a time signal, at 11:59 p.m. ET, a 11,875-pound (5,386 kg), 12-foot (3.7 m) diameter Waterford crystal ball located on the roof of One Times Square is lowered down a pole that is 141 feet high, reaching the roof of the building at exactly midnight to signal the start of the New Year. The Ball Drop has been held since 1907, and in recent years has averaged around a million spectators yearly. The popularity of the spectacle also inspired similar "drop" events throughout the country, sometimes lowering objects representing the region (such as Atlanta's "Peach Drop", representing Georgia's identity as the "Peach State") Alongside these, some American cities and towns also hold First Night events; which aim to provide a family-oriented celebration centered around local arts and culture.
Television also plays a major role in New Year's Eve celebrations; several U.S. networks broadcast specials focusing on festivities from Times Square. Beginning on the radio in 1928, and on CBS from 1956 to 1976, Guy Lombardo and his band, The Royal Canadians, presented an annual New Year's Eve special from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. The broadcasts were also well known for the Royal Canadians' signature performance of "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight, which helped popularize the song as a New Year's standard. Following the death of Lombardo in 1977, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve (which premiered in 1972 on NBC before moving to ABC in 1974, where it has aired ever since) quickly became the most iconic and most-watched New Year's Eve special in the country. Including its special coverage of the year 2000, Dick Clark would host New Year's Eve coverage on ABC for 33 straight years. The effects of a stroke prevented Clark from appearing on the 2005 edition at all, while a speech impediment caused by the stroke prevented Clark from serving as the main host in the years following. Despite this shortfall, Clark continued to make limited appearances on New Year's Rockin' Eve until his death in April 2012, and had since ceded hosting duties to media personality and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest.
New Year's Eve is traditionally the busiest day of the year at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where the parks stay open late and the usual nightly fireworks are supplemented by an additional New Year's Eve-specific show at midnight.
In the Roman Catholic Church, January 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus, and the Church officially demands the attendance of faithful Catholics for Mass that day. However a vigil Mass may be held on the evening before a Holy Day; thus it has become customary to celebrate Mass on the evening of New Year's Eve. (New Year's Eve is a feast day honoring Pope Sylvester I in the Roman Catholic calendar, but it is not widely recognized in the United States.)
Many Christian congregations have New Year's Eve watchnight services. Some, especially Lutherans and Methodists and those in the African American community, have a tradition known as "Watch Night", in which the faithful congregate in services continuing past midnight, giving thanks for the blessings of the outgoing year and praying for divine favor during the upcoming year. In the English-speaking world, Watch Night can be traced back to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who learned the custom from the Moravian Brethren who came to England in the 1730s. Moravian congregations still observe the Watch Night service on New Year's Eve. Watch Night took on special significance to African Americans on New Year's Eve 1862, as slaves anticipated the arrival of January 1, 1863, when Lincoln had announced he would sign the Emancipation Proclamation.