Who gets to say “Happy New Year” first is all a matter of longitude. Or is it?
There are 24 time zones on Earth; each time zone being one hour different from the next one. The “0th” time zone is where a day begins. This could be any old longitude. Actually, by convention, this is 180° longitude (the Antimeridian). Thus, the Antimeridian would also be the International Date Line (IDL)
If you travel east across 180° longitude you should subtract 1 from your date (lose a day), if you travel west across the line, you add 1 to your date (gain a day).
That’s what it should be. But it isn’t. Why? Well, if we followed that rule, a small part of eastern Russia would have a different date – if the date to west of the line were 1 January 2023, to the east of the line the date would be 31 December 2022!
Russia would have two different dates! (see map below).So, individual countries have decided to redraw the IDL away from the Antimeridian.
Whichever country is the first on the west of the IDL, gets to greet the new year first!
A lot of people traveled to small Pacific Ocean islands in December 1999 to be the first ones to greet the year 2000. Which island country was the first?
In 1995 Kiribati moved the IDL to keep the whole country on the same day at the same time. Before then, the western part of Kiribati (where its capital Tarawa is located) was 22 hours ahead the eastern portion of the country because of the IDL!
Again, look at the map below and you will see how Kiribati is affected by the Antimeridian and the redrawn IDL.Well, going by longitude alone, it should be the place where the borders of Arunachal Pradesh, China, and Myanmar meet. But India has adopted the same time for the whole country, the Indian Standard Time (IST). So, wherever you are in India, you can say Happy New Year at the same moment!
Look up the countries along the IDL in your atlas. Find out which country or place will be the last one that gets to greet 2023.
Share your findings with us using the “comment” link below.
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- Published in 2009
- Broken links restored : 9 February 2022
- Date examples updated : 9 February 2022
- Some text was edited for better clarity : 9 February 2022
Featured image : Version of this blog as it appeared in The Hindu’s Young World supplement on Tuesday, 29 December 2009, on page 3.