Mesopotamia (Iraq) instituted the concept of celebrating the new year in 2000 BC and celebrated new year around the time of the
vernal equinox, in mid-March.
 The early Roman calendar designated
March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months.
December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months. (Septem is
Latin for "seven"; octo, "eight"; novem, "nine"; and decem, "ten".)
Roman legend usually credited their second
Numa with the establishment of the months of
February. These were first placed at the end of the year, but at some point came to be considered the first two months instead.
Ianuariae) came to be celebrated as the new year at some point after it became the day for the inaugurating new
consuls in 153 BC. Romans had long dated their years by
these consulships, rather than sequentially, and making the
kalends of January start the new year aligned this dating. Still, private and religious celebrations around the March new year continued for some time and there is no consensus on the question of the timing for January 1's new status.
 Once it became the new year, however, it became a time for family gatherings and celebrations. A series of disasters, notably including the
failed rebellion of
M. Aemilius Lepidus in 78 BC, established a superstition against allowing Rome's
market days to fall on the
kalends of January and the
intercalation to avoid its occurrence.
In AD 567, the
Council of Tours formally abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval
Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on
December 25 in honor of
the birth of Jesus;
March 1 in the old Roman style;
March 25 in honor of
Lady Day and the
Feast of the Annunciation; and on the
movable feast of
Easter. These days were also
astrologically significant since, at the time of the
Julian reform, March 25 had been understood as the
spring equinox and December 25 as the
winter solstice. (The Julian calendar's small disagreement with the
solar year, however, shifted these days earlier before the
Council of Nicaea which formed the basis of the calculations used during the
Gregorian reform of the calendar.) Medieval calendars nonetheless often continued to display the months running from January to December, despite their readers reckoning the transition from one year to the next on a different day.
Among the 7th century
Flanders and the
Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts on the first day of the new year. This custom was deplored by
Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemish and Dutch: "(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare
Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another
 However, on the date that European Christians celebrated the New Year, they exchanged Christmas presents because New Year's Day fell within the twelve days of the
Christmas season in the
Western Christian liturgical
 the custom of exchanging Christmas gifts in a Christian context is traced back to the
Biblical Magi who gave gifts to the
Because of the leap year error in the Julian calendar, the date of
Easter had drifted backward since the
First Council of Nicaea decided
the computation of the date of Easter in 325. By the sixteenth century, the drift from the observed
equinox had become unacceptable. In 1582,
Pope Gregory XIII declared the
Gregorian calendar widely used today, correcting the error by a deletion of 10 days. The Gregorian calendar reform also (in effect) restored January 1 as New Year's Day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar
until 1752. Until then, the
British Empire – and its American colonies – still celebrated the new year on 25 March.
Most nations of
Western Europe officially adopted 1 January as New Year's Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian Calendar. In
Tudor England, New Year's Day, along with
Christmas Day and
Twelfth Night, was celebrated as one of three main festivities among the
twelve days of
 There, until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, the first day of the new year was the Western Christian
Feast of the Annunciation, on 25 March, also called "
Lady Day". Dates predicated on the year beginning on 25 March became known as Annunciation Style dates, while dates of the Gregorian Calendar commencing on 1 January were distinguished as Circumcision Style dates,
 because this was the date of the
Feast of the Circumcision, the observed memorial of the eighth day of
Jesus Christ's life after his birth, counted from the latter's observation on
Christmas, 25 December.
Pope Gregory acknowledged 1 January as the beginning of the new year according to his reform of the Catholic