People celebrate the New Year all over the world - with the parties beginning in earnest as soon as the clock strikes twelve. The phenomenon of why the stroke of midnight actually occurs at many different times, depending on what country you're in, can be hard to fathom.
There are many different time zones all over the planet and the Pacific island of Tonga is the first nation to ring in the New Year - yet it happens when it's only 10am Greenwich Mean Time on 31st December. This means people in the UK are going about their daily business, while the residents of Tonga begin firing their fana pitu bamboo cannons to welcome in the New Year!
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The concept of different time zones was introduced because of the earth's rotation on its axis: it moves around 15 degrees every hour. After 24 hours, it has rotated a full 360 degrees. The rotation means different places on earth are in sunlight or darkness at different times. We must set different time zones because otherwise, some countries would be in darkness at midday, or experience brilliant sunshine at two in the morning!
In the late 1800s, a group of scientists calculated the definitive divisions for the world's time zones, dividing the planet into 24 sections or time zones. One imaginary dividing line was placed at Greenwich in London - hence the UK's time zone is known as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. This means that no matter where you are on the earth, noon will always be in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest and midnight will be at night.
Parties around the world
When the people of Tonga bring in the New Year, they go out into the streets to greet friends and relatives as the week-long celebration of Uike Lotu begins. It is a holy celebration and after the flurry of excitement, live music, feasting and socialising on New Year's Eve, the people will go to the beach, as its summertime in Tonga, before attending church services.
The next nation to welcome in the New Year is New Zealand, at 10.15am GMT. New Year's Eve celebrations include many spectacular fireworks displays. On New Year’s Day, it's traditional to relax and visit family and friends. There are also events such as horse racing festivals and cricket matches.
Fireworks and Big Ben
Many Brits will be surprised to learn Tonga and New Zealand are the first two nations to bring in the New Year, since the media usually focuses on the fireworks exploding over Sydney Harbour as Australia starts its celebrations. This takes place on 31st December at around 1pm GMT.
Central and Eastern European nations celebrate New Year from 10pm GMT. In the UK, as Big Ben strikes midnight, the media focuses on the spectacular firework displays over London. People gather at Victoria Embankment and South Bank on the River Thames, home of the London Eye and Big Ben. Accompanied by the mighty clock's chimes, the countdown is broadcast on TV.
New York, Washington and Detroit celebrate on 1st January at 5am GMT. The final places to welcome in the New Year are the small outlying US islands, Howard Island and Baker Island, on 1st January at noon. As Baker Island is uninhabited, it tends to get forgotten.
Perhaps one of the oddest facts to grasp is the way American Samoa brings in the New Year at 11am on 1st January. Even though it is only 558 miles from Tonga, the two nations celebrate a full 25 hours apart! Some people grab a quick flight between the two regions to count down to the New Year twice!
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The ISGUS UK team would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!