When I search the origin of "New Year", I find its history and origin in Roman Empire (and Julian calendar) as it is expected. However, the notion of "New Year" goes back to ancient Babylonian calendar. Here is a brief excerpt about the origin of "New Year" from history.com:

As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month's namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

Of course, we are not on History Stack Exchange, so my question is: When was "New Year" first attested in English language?

Etymonline doesn't have New Year but it gives the origin of New Year's Eve:

"evening before the first day of the new year," c. 1300; "þer þay dronken & dalten ... on nwe gerez euen." The Julian calendar began on January 1, but the Christian Church frowned on pagan celebrations of this event and chose the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) as its New Year's Day. The civic year in England continued to begin January 1 until late 12c., and even though legal documents then shifted to March 25, popular calendars and almanacs continued to begin on January 1. The calendar reform of 1751 restored the Julian New Year in England. New Year's was the main midwinter festival in Scotland from 17c., when Protestant authorities banned Christmas, and continued so after England reverted to Christmas, hence the Scottish flavor ("Auld Lang Syne," etc.). New Year's gathering in public places began 1878 in London, after new bells were installed in St. Paul's.

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    Note that Jan 1 is (or was) a holy day of obligation in the American church; it's officially called The Feast of the Circumcision, reminding Catholics that Jesus was Jewish. Just a bris party, nothing pagan here. Dec 26, 2022 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


OED gives c1175 (c indicates circa) for the year of the first attestation of New Year and it is recorded earliest in New Year's Day:

c1175    Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 4230    Tatt daȝȝ iss newȝeress daȝȝ Mang enngle þeode nemmnedd.

OED gives a1300 (a indicates ante) for the year of the first attestation of New Year (as standalone, without forming compounds):

?a1300    Iacob & Iosep (Bodl.) (1916) 246 (MED)    Hit fel in one daye to þe newe ȝer, Iwreyed was wel stronge þe kinges botiler.

OED also provides the brief history below for New Year's Day (or New Year Day) which includes the adoption of Gregorian calendar and 1 January as New Year's Day in England:

The convention of reckoning the year from 1 January dates back to the Julian calendar, and was retained in the Gregorian calendar now in general use worldwide (see calendar n. 1). However, other local or religious calendars (and other new year days) have been used throughout history. In the Middle Ages in many European countries 25 March (the feast of the Annunciation) was the first day of the year. In England it was only when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 that the first day of the English legal year was changed to 1 January (Scotland had adopted 1 January in 1600). For more information, see the note at New Style at style n. 27a.

For reference, OED includes the terms used in other languages in the history also in the etymology of New Year:

Compare Middle Dutch nieujaer (Dutch nieuwjaar), Middle Low German niejār, nīejār, German Neujahr (17th cent.; 16th cent. in sense ‘New Year's gift’), Old Icelandic nýjár, Old Swedish nyar (Swedish nyår), Danish nytår. With Compounds 3, compare Middle Dutch niejaersdach, nieujaersdach (Dutch nieuwjaarsdag), German Neujahrstag, Old Icelandic nýjársdagr, Old Swedish nyars dagher (Swedish nyårsdag), Danish nytårsdag.


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