New Year’s Eve celebrations go back for centuries and the traditions surrounding the changing of the calendar year abound throughout the world. In fact the New Year is the oldest holiday, as it was first observed in ancient Babylon as many as 4,000 years ago.

With so many different civilizations and so many cultures in numerous countries, traditions and facts are seemingly never ending. The staff at the Empire-Tribune has collected some fun facts and traditions from around the world and across centuries. Most New Year’s Eve fun facts also involve New Year’s Day and traditions that occur close to midnight.

• Celebrating New Year on January 1 is purely arbitrary, as neither it has agricultural significance nor astronomical. Many countries still celebrate it in spring, the season of rebirth of new crops.

• The Roman senate declared January 1 as the New Year in 153 BC. Though even this date saw major tampering, it was Julius Caesar who again declared January 1 in Julian calendar as the New Year, in 46 BC.

• The Catholic Church denounced any New Year’s celebrations as paganism. Ironically, as Christianity rolled through the world, the Catholic community devised other types of celebrations for the “Feast of Christ’s Circumcision,” which is observed the same as New Year’s Eve and Day.

• It is often thought that the first visitors you see after ringing in the New Year would bring you good or bad luck, depending on who you keep as friends and enemies. That’s why most people celebrating on New Year’s Eve often do so with friends and family.

• The Roman senate declared January 1 as the New Year in 153 BC. Though even this date saw major tampering, it was Julius Caesar who again declared January 1 in Julian calendar as the New Year, in 46 BC.

• New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.

• The first month of the year i.e. January has been named after God Janus (Latin word for door), in the Roman calendar. Janus is the God with two faces, one looking backwards and one forward, at the same time and marks the ‘spirit of the opening’

• The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year's Eve, by giving one another branches from sacred trees, for good fortune. The gift phenomenon is prevalent from those times, till date.

• January 1 was revived as New Year in 1582, by the Gregorian calendar and so celebrated by most of the countries till date.

• If the first person to visit you was a tall and dark-haired man, this was especially lucky.

• Items or food that is ring-shaped is also good luck. This symbolizes “coming full circle”, which is what one year does. Some cultures eat ring-like food through the evening and through the night to ensure that good luck will be bestowed upon everyone who eats. The Dutch often eat doughnuts.

• Black-eyed peas (usually with ham) are often consumed in certain parts of the United States. These are thought to bring good fortune in cultures around the world, not just in the U.S.

• Other foods that are eaten on New Year’s Eve are cabbage because the leaves represent prosperity. Ham (or a hog) also symbolizes prosperity. In Asian cultures, rice is a hearty and lucky staple that is eaten around midnight to signify the coming year of fortune.

• Auld Lang Syne is sung at midnight to toast in the New Year. The song was composed by Robert Burns sometimes in the 1700’s. The term means “old long ago” or “the good old days.”

• December 31, 1907, saw the very first ball lowering in Times Square.

• Stats of the first New York ball: 700 pounds; 5 feet in diameter. The ball was made from wood and iron.

• The modern ball that is dropped is made from Waterford Crystal and weights over 1,000 pounds. There are over 9,000 LED lights, but uses hardly any energy. The ball begins to drop at 11:59 and completes the journey exactly at midnight to ring in the New Year.

• The ball was not lowered in 1942 and 1943 due to wartime restrictions.

• On New Year’s Eve, about 75 percent of American parties are with 20 people or less.