Why is New Year on the 1st of January ? 

By Jawhar Sircar 
When did we really start celebrating the 1st of January as New Year’s Day ?
  Not very long ago.
Earlier, the western new year was actually celebrated on the  1st of March or on the 25th of March.  The credit for counting years to mark one round of the earth around the  son was started some 4000 years ago by the Babylonians.
And then, other ancient civilisations like the Phoenicians, the Persians and the Egyptians started to improve the system and try to be more exact to calculate their months and years more scientifically.  But most of these ancient years preferred the date of the ‘autumn equinox’ (21st-22nd September) to start the cycle — hence their new year’s day.
The the Greeks, however, pushed this date to ‘winter solstice’ day, around the 21st of December. The Romans came next and introduced a year of ten months which had just 304 days and started from the first of March. In 153 BC, the date of their new year was brought forward to the first of January in honour of their god, Janus, beginning the modern ‘New Year’s Day’.
But more interesting is how this 304-day was bullied by the first two Roman emperors to become 365 days in order to accommodate their egos.  Julius Caesar came disrupted Roman life and state by introducing a new month, July, in his own name as the seventh month. His nephew and successor, Augustus, promptly declared the next month as August, rather immodestly.
Consequently, the remaining four months of the old Roman year, that were numbered earlier as seventh to tenth, were then jostled further down the line. For instance, the 7th month, September (Latin ‘septa’, as in our seven, like sapta as in sapta-rishi) is now the ninth month. Similarly, October the original eighth (‘octo’ like our ashta) is now in the tenth position. In like manner, the old ninth month, November, which is based on navam (nine) is rolled over to the eleventh month. Obviously, dasam (tenth) month December became our current twelfth one. Julius however retained the first of January as the new year’s day in his new Julian calendar.
Though we still go by this sequence and call the months by the same names, the first day of the year has, however, been tossed around like a volleyball. In 567 AD, at the Council of Tours, the Christian Church declared the Roman celebration of the first of January to be too pagan and mandated that the year should begin from the 25th of March —  on the ‘Feast of the Annunciation’. This was close enough to spring equinox, which was usually on the 21st or 22nd of March, and near to Easter, as well.
Incidentally, much of Deccan India and even beyond observes a date quite close to this date as the first day of their year — on Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. In many parts of India, this time marked the end of the Rabi season and certainly called for festivities.
At the end of the medieval age in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church restored new year’s day to the first of January. The Julian calendar had a slight mismatch with the actual solar year and by the late 16th century, this accumulated into 14 days’s difference. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII stepped in and introduced the more scientific Gregorian calendar, by adjusting the ‘excess’ number of days and European countries adopted this practice.
By the 19th century, however, the Gregorian calendar became almost completely universal. Since European nations colonised almost all of the Third World, it was imposed on all of us. We have our regional New Years but the sheer weight of Western ‘impositions’ (even after decolonisation) and Western commerce continue to dominate our lives.
                    Interesting, isn’t it? 
                    Wishing a Happy New Year to all.