Republic of Kiribati: who is the first to celebrate the New Year?


As a New Year greeting for LifeGlobe readers, I decided to prepare an interesting story about an unusual place where this event is celebrated before anyone else in the world. As the world waits for the New Year to arrive on December 31st, the tiny island nation to the east will already be celebrating. Located to the west of the Time Line of Demarcation, the Republic of Kiribati is one of the places on Earth where you can see the first rays of the rising sun. Their time zone is +14 hours UTC, the farthest time zone in the world.

The Republic of Kiribati is made up of 33 atolls and low coral islands in the Central Pacific Ocean, spread over more than 3.5 million square kilometers of water. The country includes three island groups — the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Archipelago and the Line Islands, the latter of which are located up to 30 ° east of the 180 ° longitude line. Geographically, the Line Islands lie directly south of the Hawaiian Islands and should logically be in the same time zone. But this is not the case, because the Time Line of Demarcation is not a straight line. It zigzags and has changed over the years for various political and economic reasons.

Prior to 1995, Kiribati was located on both sides of the Timeline of Demarcation, with the eastern and western island groups having a time difference of 24 hours. This was seen as an annoying economic nuisance, creating a lot of inconvenience in all spheres of the life of the republic. To put an end to this situation, the President of Kiribati announced that on January 1, 1995, the Demarcation Timeline would henceforth move eastward to bypass the country. At the same time, Kiribati became the first country to welcome the rays of the rising sun at the onset of the third millennium. To celebrate, they even renamed Caroline Island Millennium Island.

The bend in the Demarcation Timeline also created a new UTC+14 time zone that didn’t exist before. This means that there are places on the planet that are more than 24 hours behind Kiribati.

Following the example of Kiribati, the other island territory of Tonga has changed its time standards to UTC+14 and now celebrates the new year at the same time as the Line Islands in Kiribati. The demarcation line changed again on December 29, 2011, when another island, Samoa, moved the demarcation time line to the other side and switched to UTC+13. Following Samoa, Tokelau also advanced its standard time to UTC+13.

Although any country is authorized to change time zones, many countries and organizations do not recognize the change. The demarcation time line is established by international treaty and there are no formal agreements associated with it. This caused a lot of controversy along the date line among a handful of island nations, each of which wanted to be the first to welcome the new year (this is very beneficial in attracting tourists). This raises the question of whether uninhabited islands are counted, or whether territories in the same time zone, but slightly further east, can claim to celebrate the new year before everyone else.

According to the accepted time zones of the current, the first place to celebrate the New Year is Kiribati, followed by Tonga. Western Samoa and Tokelau follow an hour later. The New Zealand Territory of the Chatham Islands and the Republic of Fiji follow slightly behind. The first largest city on this list is Auckland in New Zealand, and the last place to celebrate the New Year is the uninhabited Baker Island and Howland Island, owned by the United States.