Written by Sherry
Monday, 31 December 2007 06:20
We take for granted the TV and internet images of New Year's celebrations around the world but January 1 wasn't a truly global celebration until well into the 20th century.
The celebration of January 1 as the first day of the New Year was a Catholic innovation. January 1 became New Year's Day as a result of the adaption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. The change had been mandated by the Council of Trent. The goal was to ensure that the Church celebrated Easter on the day that the Council of Nicea in 325 had celebrated Easter.
There is a very detailed Wikipedia article on the Gregorian reform.
Only 4 Catholic countries adopted the new calendar in 1582: Spain, Portugal, the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, and most of Italy. "Most non-Catholic countries initially objected to adopting a Catholic invention, especially during the Counter-Reformation (of which Gregory was a leading proponent); some Protestants feared the new calendar was part of a plot to return them to the Catholic fold. In the Czech lands, Protestants resisted the calendar imposed by the Hapsburg Monarchy. In parts of Ireland, Catholic rebels until their defeat in the Nine Years' War kept the "new" Easter in defiance of the English-loyal authorities; later, Catholics practising in secret petitioned the Propaganda Fide for dispensation from observing the new calendar, as it signalled their disloyalty. 
Denmark, Norway and the Protestant states of Germany adopted the solar portion of the new calendar on Monday, 1 March 1700,  . . They finally adopted the lunar portion of the Gregorian calendar in 1776. The remaining provinces of the Dutch Republic also adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700.
Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 (see the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750) by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. After 1753, the British tax year in Britain continued to operate on the Julian calendar and began on 5 April, which was the "Old Style" new tax year of 25 March. A 12th skipped Julian leap day in 1800 changed its start to 6 April. It was not changed when a 13th Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April.
In Alaska, the change took place when Friday, October 6, 1867 was followed again by Friday, October 18 after the US purchase of Alaska from Russia, which was still on the Julian calendar. Instead of 12 days, only 11 were skipped, and the day of the week was repeated on successive days, because the International Date Line was shifted from Alaska's eastern to western boundary along with the change to the Gregorian calendar.
In Russia the Gregorian calendar was accepted after the October Revolution (so named because it took place in October 1917 in the Julian calendar). On 24 January 1918 the Council of People's Commissars issued a Decree that Wednesday, 31 January 1918 was to be followed by Thursday, 14 February 1918.
The last country of Eastern Orthodox Europe to adopt the Gregorian calendar was Greece on Thursday, 1 March 1923, following Wednesday, 15 February 1923.
Just in time to witness that glittering ball descending in Times Square.