The New Year will begin a moment after midnight at the 180th Meridian - the international dateline - of our planet. It lies over only ocean except where it crosses the eastern most tip of Russia in the far north, Antarctica in the far South, and Vanua Levu, Rambi, and Taveuni in the Fiji Islands. As a result, the only people to experience the first seconds of the new year are likely to be those on Taveuni. Because time zones deviate from the meridian for convenience sake, other island nations can claim this as well, but only these Fijian Islands lie right on the meridian.
In the old days, European plantation owners - sneaky and greedy bunch that they were - took advantage of this situation. They would work their employees seven days a week by having them work on the west side of the meridian through Saturday. They would then move them to the east side of the meridian, where they would awake on Saturday all over again, thus denying them a day off. Christian missionaries were particularly upset by this little trick as you might imagine, if for no other reason than a lack of church attendance. The practice was soon abolished.
Technically speaking, the whole idea of the day beginning on Taveuni does not hold much water anyway. The international agreement of 1884 that set the position of the meridians placed the Prime Meridian (zero) at Greenwich, England, which is where the day officially begins for purposes of astronomy and navigation. The international dateline is not established by any treaty, though widely accepted for the convenience of telling time. But why spoil the fun?
As the hour approaches, please remember this my friends:
No matter how intelligent, or how wealthy, or how powerful we may become,
we cannot create a single grain of rice, the beauty of a flower, or the smile of a friend. These things are gifts for which we should be truly grateful.
Wherever you are on this big blue marbel in space that we call home, I wish you all a very healthy, mindful, and joyous New Year.