January 1 marks the start of a new year, but have you ever thought of where the world rings in the year first? How about the United States—where do Americans celebrate the New Year first?
Before you find out, it’s important to know a little about time zones. When you look at a map, you see lines that run north and south, and lines running east and west. These imaginary lines are called latitude and longitude lines. When talking about time, the longitude lines are the important ones. They run top to bottom, meeting at the North and South poles.
These lines are numbered in degrees. The Prime Meridian, which is 0 degrees, goes through Greenwich, England. You may have seen the letters GMT, which is short for Greenwich Mean Time.
The prime meridian is the starting point for the world’s 24 time zones. The time difference between zones that are next to each other is, in most cases, exactly one hour, which is 15 degrees longitude.
Another important longitude line is the International Dateline. This line determines where a new calendar day begins. If you stand west of the International Date Line and a friend next to you stands just east of the line, you’re one day later than your friend on the other side of the line!
Who sees the New Year first? The world starts welcoming a new year on Christmas Island. Once part of Great Britain’s empire, Christmas Island is now part of the country of Kiribati, a chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
America first rings in the New Year in Guam, a U.S. territory located in the South Pacific. Guam is 17 hours ahead of Arizona and 15 hours ahead of New York City this time of year.
On the continental United States, kids on the East Coast celebrate the New Year first while kids in Hawaii celebrate it last.