History of the Date
The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). This coincided with approximately 23rd-25th March on the Julian Calendar.

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. It symbolized new growth and a time to look forward to the future - the same meaning that the new year holds for people today.  January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison. The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. The  acceptance of the changed date was delayed. This might be due to some of its arbitrary nature that we have already pointed out. The date was unusual. For, unlike the customs prevalent till then, no agricultural or seasonal significance was attached to it. Instead, it was just a civil date, the day after the elections when the consuls would assume their new positions in the Roman empire. But the bigger problem the changed date posed, was difficulties in the calculation of the year. As the Romans moved their New Year's Day backward almost three months to January 1, we have irregularities in our calendar. The months of September, October, November and December, originally mean, the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth month respectively. Later, many of the Roman emperors had given new names to these months. September received names as "Germanucus", "Antonius" and "Tacitus" under each of these emperors' regime. Thus November also earned the varying names of "Domitianus", "Faustinus" and "Romanus".

The inconveniences led Julius Caesar to institute a new calendar. It was devised by the Greek astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria from the unrivaled Egyptian solar calendar. Caesar wanted to change the date of the New Year from January 1 to a more logical date - to one of the solstices or equinoxes. However, it happened that January 1 of 45 B.C. was the date of a new moon and to change it would have been to invite bad luck according to the prevalent beliefs. Infact in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

For his calendar reform, the Senate rewarded him by having the month of his birth, Quintilis, renamed "July" in his honor. Caesar's grandnephew, the Emperor Augustus, had a similar honor bestowed on him when he corrected a mistake which had crept into the calculation of the leap year. Till then it had been observed every three years, instead of every four. He abolished all leap years between 8 B.C. and A.D. 8. Thus he set the calendar straight and earned for himself the renaming of Sextilis as "August". 

In early times, the ancient Romans gave each other New Year's gifts of branches from sacred trees. In later years, they gave gold-covered nuts or coins imprinted with pictures of Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings. January was named after Janus, who had two faces--one looking forward and the other looking backward. The Romans also brought gifts to the emperor. The emperors eventually began to demand such gifts. But the Christian church outlawed this custom and certain other pagan New Year's practices in A.D. 567.

As the Catholic Church expanded, it was strongly opposed to the celebration of the Roman's New Year, and denounced it as paganism. However, as Christianity became more widespread, the religious observances of the Catholic Church began to coincide with many of the pagan celebrations. On January 1, while the Romans celebrated the New Year, the Catholic Church worshipped what is still observed by some denominations today as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision. The Church continued to condemn the celebration of the New Year throughout the Middle Ages. It wasn't until the late 1500s that January 1 became the official holiday celebrated by Western nations.

It was Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 AD who incorporated our present method of calculation and dividing the year. It was the Pope who reinstituted the practice of observing New Year's Day on January 1, regardless of the pre-Christian associations with that date. The Gregorian reforms also canceled ten days from October; Thursday, October 4, 1582, was followed by Friday, October 15, 1582. the old discrepancy was provided for by making only those century dates leap years that were that were divisible by 400. Thus although the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, the 2000 is. 

The global adoption:
Catholic countries adopted it soon. Yet it took some time for the Protestants to follow suit. Finally Germany did adopt it in 1700, Great Britain in 1752, and Sweden in 1753. It was then necessary to drop 11 days from the calendar because 1700 had been a leap year. 

The Oriental countries through the influence of religious groups such as the Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists and Moslems, considered the new Calendar as the Christian Calendar, but also adopted it as their official one. Japan welcomed it in 1873 and China in 1912.

The Eastern Orthodox adopted it even later, in 1924 and 1927, Russia took it twice - first in 1918 and after trying out its own calendars, again 1n 1924.