In the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve (also Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester’s Day in many countries), the last day of the year, is on December 31. In many countries, New Year’s Eve is celebrated at evening social gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages, and watch or light fireworks to mark the new year. Some people attend a watchnight service. The celebrations generally go on past midnight into January 1 (New Year’s Day).
The island nations of Kiribati and Samoa are the first to welcome the New Year while Honolulu, Hawaii is among the last.
New Year traditions and celebrations in Canada vary regionally. New Year’s Eve (also called New Year’s Eve Day or Veille du Jour de l’An in French) is generally a social holiday. In many cities, such as Toronto and Niagara Falls in Ontario, there are large celebrations which may feature concerts, late-night partying, sporting events, and fireworks, with free public transit service during peak party times in most major cities. In some areas, such as in rural Quebec, people ice fish and drink alcoholic beverages with their friends until the early hours of January 1.
From 1956 to 1976, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians serenaded Canada on the CBC, via a feed from CBS, from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. After Lombardo’s death in 1977, the Royal Canadians continued on CBC and CBS until 1978.
In 1992, the sketch comedy troupe Royal Canadian Air Farce began airing its annual Year of the Farce special on CBC Television, which features sketches lampooning the major events and news stories of the year. While the original 1992 edition was a one-off special, Year of the Farce episodes continued as a regular feature of the Air Farce television series which ran from 1993 to 2008—airing its series finale on December 31, 2008. Following the finale of the television series, the original cast continued to participate in New Year’s Eve specials in the years following.
Similarly, the CBC’s French language network Ici Radio-Canada Télé airs its own yearly New Year’s Eve comedy special, Bye Bye. Unlike Year of the Farce, Bye Bye has been presented by various comedians; originally running from 1968 to 1998, it was revived in 2006 by the Québécois troupe Rock et Belles Oreilles. Its 2008 edition, hosted and co-produced by Québécois television personality Véronique Cloutier, became infamous for several sketches that many viewers perceived as offensive, including sketches making fun of English Canadians and then American president-elect Barack Obama.
On New Year’s Eve, social gatherings of all sizes are organized to mark the end of one year and the start of the next. These range from small parties with family members and a few good friends in private homes to huge street parties with live entertainment, music, dancing and even public fireworks. Many events start in the middle of the evening on December 31 and continue into the early hours of January 1.
Some people mark the stroke of midnight by opening bottles of champagne or sparkling wine and drinking a toast to the New Year and the health of everyone present. Others take a short vacation to enjoy Canada’s natural beauty at its wintry best or to take part in winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. In rural areas in northern Canada, particularly in Quebec, some people spend all night on a frozen lake with a group of good friends and fish through holes in the ice.