Celebrating New Year's Day is one of the oldest international customs. Ringing church bells, tooting horns and ear-piercing shrieks echo throughout the world on this festive day. Whether visiting relatives or watching New Year's Day parades at home on the TV, welcoming the New Year is a time of entertainment, celebration and resolution. Since this festival marks the beginning of the year, New Year's Day is thought of as a perfect time for a "clean start" or New Year's resolutions. People worldwide resolve to act better in the year just beginning than in the year just ended. No day has ever been observed on so many different dates or in so many different ways. All over the world, countries have their own special beliefs about the New Year. People in the U.S. observe New Year's Day on Jan. 1 by throwing parties late into the night on the eve of Dec. 31. People in China celebrate what they call Yuan Tan for several days between Jan. 17 - Feb. 19 at the time of the new moon. Lanterns illuminate the streets "to light the way" for the New Year. The Chinese believe that evil spirits roam the earth at the New Year, so they let off firecrackers to scare off the spirits and seal their windows and doors with paper to keep the evil demons out. In Scotland, the New Year is called Hogmannay. In the villages of Scotland, barrels of tar are set afire and then rolled down the streets. This ritual symbolizes that the old year is burned up and the new one is allowed to enter. New Year's Day is also the Festival of Saint Basil in Greece. Children leave their shoes by the fireside on New Year's Day with the hope that Saint Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts. In Iran, New Year's Day is in March and celebrates the beginning of the new year according to the solar calendar and the beginning of spring.
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