New Year's parties have been thousands of years in the making

The new year is a time to look forward, and a time to look back on what was. While you’re at it, think of all the new year celebrations that came before -- think way, way back.

The earliest recorded celebrations of a new year were about 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon. The first new moon following the vernal equinox in late March signaled the new year, and brought with it an 11 day religious festival known as Akitu. According to, it marked the victory of their sky god over an evil sea goddess, and a new ruler would be chosen or their current king’s rule would be renewed. The practice of making New Year’s resolutions is also said to have started with the Babylonians. 

Other ancient civilizations tied the start of the new year to astronomical or astrological events as well. But the new year didn’t begin on January 1st until Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar. January was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, and Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to the god, exchanging gifts with each other, and throwing some serious parties. 

We still like to party, but we’ve come up with some new traditions over time. While fireworks are common throughout the modern world, dropping a ball on New Year’s Eve is an entirely American tradition. Cities have put their own twists on the ball drop such as a Liberty Bell replica, an opossum, a reality tv star, a bag of potato chips and even a giant ukelele. 

However, there’s nothing that says “Happy New Year” better than the ball drop in New York City’s Times Square. What started in 1907 now ushers in an estimated two million people into Times Square, and millions more tune in on televisions across the country. 

And this year will be no different. Americans everywhere will be counting down the last seconds of the year together. It might have taken a few thousand years, but it looks like we have this new year thing all figured out.

Watch the video to see the history of the biggest party of the year.