Provided by WorldNow
Rome, which pretty much controlled the calendar at the time, set January 1 as the start of the year in 153 B.C. Until then, the year began in March, and many Romans continued to celebrate the new year on March 1.
That changed in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar adapted a more accurate calendar that more closely tracked the Earth's orbit of the Sun. He decreed Jan. 1 to be the start of the year, and almost all Romans accepted the date.
However, in 567 the Council of Tours decided that New Year's celebrations were not in keeping with Christian teachings, and decreed that the year would begin on March 1. It remained that way for the next millenium, and then, for almost 200 years the Christian world was divided over New Year's Day.
With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, most Catholic countries recognized Jan. 1 as the start of the year. But Protestant nation's (and the British colonies in North America) held out for March 1 until 1752.
You can learn more about the history of New Year's Day at infoplease.com.