January 1 is all about new beginnings. Upon waking up on the first day of a new year, it’s not uncommon for people to turn over a new leaf or look ahead to the months to come. But the first day of the new year also merits a look back, as many historical events have taken place on January 1.
45 BC: Of the many memorable events to take place on January 1, perhaps none had a more lasting effect than January 1 in 45 BC. That’s the day when the Roman Empire officially adopted the Julian calendar, which established January 1 as the first day of the new year.
404: Gladiatorial fights are banned by Christian Emperor Honorius, who issues the ban after the Christian monk Telemachus is stoned to death by a crowd as he tries to stop a gladiatorial fight in a Roman amphitheater.
1500: The coast of Brazil is discovered by Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral. Cabral is acknowledged as the first European to discover Brazil and during his voyage in 1500 became the first human in history to be in four continents.
1600: More than 1,600 years after the Roman Empire recognized January 1 as the start of the new year, Scotland follows suit. Until this point, Scotland had considered March 25 as the start of its new year.
1776: In the midst of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington hoists the Grand Union Flag, a precursor to the American flag, at Prospect Hill in Somerville, Massachusetts. Historians cite this as the first time any American flag was raised.
1801: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is proclaimed. The sovereign state would remain in existence until 1922, when the Irish Free State was established.
1863: The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect in Confederate territory. The proclamation from U.S. President Abraham Lincoln changed the legal status of more than 3.5 million African Americans from enslaved to free.
1898: The City of Greater New York is created when New York, NY, annexes land from surrounding counties. Four boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx) are established, and a fifth (Staten Island) joined less than a month later.
1912: The Republic of China is established. The People’s Republic of China, which rules the mainland today, cites 1949 as the official end of the Republic of China.
1934: Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay becomes a United States federal prison. High costs of running the prison would be one of the major contributing factors to its closure as a detention facility in 1963. The prison is now a popular tourist attraction.
1971: A ban on television ads promoting cigarettes goes into effect in the United States.
1990: David Dinkins is sworn in as the first African American Mayor of New York City. It was not Dinkins’ first turn as a trailblazer, as he also was among the first African American U.S. Marines.