Mesopotamia (Iraq) instituted the concept of celebrating the new year in 2000 BC, 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 is "eight," novem is "nine," and decem is "ten.")
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1 was in Rome in 153 BC (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 BC, when the second king of Rome,
Numa Pompilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected
Roman consuls (the highest officials in the Roman republic) began their one-year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.
In 46 BC
Julius Caesar extended the year to 445 days (
annus confusionis). The normal number of 355 days had already been increased by the addition of the ordinary 23 days, inserted after February 23. As many as 67 days, divided into two menses intercalares, were now interposed between November and December. This year thus consisted of 15 months. After this “year of confusion,” the new calendar really started. Since 153 BC, January 1 was the day new consuls in Rome took office and Romans had commonly used the name of the two consuls to identify a specific year in question. Thus, by officially making January 1 start the New Year, it simply lined up with the consular year. One proposed reason for this switch is that January is thought by most to have been named after the god of transitions and beginnings, Janus, during the reign of the second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius, who lived from 753–673 BC. Thus, it was naturally enough for the Romans to eventually decide to make the switch. However, whether this is the reason or not is very much up for debate. There is no consensus on the question.
Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC as the
Julian Calendar and was subsequently murdered, the
Roman Senate voted to deify him on 1 January 42 BC,
 in honor of his life and his institution of the new rationalized calendar.
 Dates in March, coinciding with the
March Equinox, the
Solemnity of the Annunciation of
Jesus Christ, or other Christian feasts were used throughout the
Middle Ages as the first day of the new year, although their calendars nonetheless often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December.
In 567 AD the
Council of Tours 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
Dec. 25, the birth of
March 25, the
Feast of the Annunciation; and
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 Years' 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 Years 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