Many people start January 1 at parties to welcome the New Year on the evening of December 31. Many parties are at people’s homes or in bars and clubs. However, in some rural areas, particularly in the province of Quebec, some people spend the night ice fishing with groups of friends. Many New Year’s Eve parties continue into the early hours of January 1, so some people may spend most of the first day of the year recovering from the celebrations. Others take the opportunity to enjoy some time in the wintry Canadian landscape or to return home from their Christmas vacation.
January 1 is a statutory holiday in all Canadian provinces and territories and if this date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the statutory holiday moves to Monday January 2 or 3. Schools, post offices and many businesses and organizations are closed. In some areas, stores are closed, although this varies between provinces and even municipalities. Many public transport systems are shut down or offer a reduced service. January 2 is also a public holiday in the province of Quebec.
In Canada, the Gregorian calendar is used. This calendar was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and was gradually accepted in many parts of western Europe in the following decades and centuries. The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian Calendar, introduced by the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in 46 BCE. The Julian calendar was replaced because it introduced too many leap days, thus increasing the number of days between the vernal equinox of March 21, its scheduled date as noted in 325 CE during the Council of Nicaea. The introduction of the Gregorian calendar allowed for realignment with the equinox.
The last day in the Gregorian calendar is December 31 and the first day is January 1. Canadians celebrate these two days as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The New Year’s celebrations have roots in ancient celebrations of the winter solstice, both in Europe and by First Nation peoples in what is now Canada.
An important symbol of New Year’s Day is the fireworks that are set off to mark the beginning of the New Year at midnight as December 31 becomes January. There are particularly spectacular shows in many major cities, including Toronto. The Toronto fireworks display is a large public performance that is accompanied by music.