The most common modern celebrations are:
- In the United States, cultural images include an old Father Time with a sash proclaiming the Old Year leaving as an infant with a sash proclaiming the New Year enters.
- In New York City, New York there is a large ball which is lowered at the stroke of midnight. It is sometimes referred to as "the big apple" like the city itself; the custom derives from the time signal that used to be given at noon in harbours.
- In Atlanta, Georgia there is a large peach which is lowered at the stroke of midnight.
- In Scotland, there are many special customs associated with the New Year. For more information, see the entry on Hogmanay, the Scots name for the New Year celebration.
- In The Netherlands and some other European countries, the New Year is greeted with massive private fireworks. The custom may have been imported by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. However, fireworks have long been part of the European celebration of major events so this may not be so. This day is also the occasion to make bonfires of discarded Christmas trees in some countries.
In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church started its ecclesiastic year on a principal Christian feast, like Easter or Christmas. This was followed by many European administrations. Since the 17th century, the Catholic ecclesiastic year has started on the first day of Advent.
The ancient Roman calendar had only ten months and started the year on March 25, which is still reflected in the names of some months which derive from Latin numerals: September (Seventh), October (Eighth), November (Ninth), December (Tenth). Around 715 BC the months of January, February and Mercedony were added. The first month was named after Janus, the two-faced (forward and backward looking) god of gates and transitions in general. Mercedony was a leap month which was used when needed. As part of a calendar reform in 46 BC, Julius Caesar dropped Mercedony and decreed that the New Year should start at the beginning of January instead.
In England the new year did not legally change from the 25th March to the 1st January until 1752, although for a long time before this it was common practice to treat the 1st January as the start of the year.