Samoa and Kiribati are first to welcome the new year

PUBLISHED Sun, December 31, 2017 - 5:00am EST

The Pacific island nation of Samoa and parts of Kiribati were the first places in the world to welcome the new year on Monday. Auckland in New Zealand will be the world's first major city to usher in 2018.

Samoa and parts of Kiribati are in the world's farthest forward timezone, which is 14 hours ahead of UTC, putting them at the same time as Hawaii except the date is one day ahead. This means it was still Saturday in places such as American Samoa when it turned Monday in Samoa and Kiribati.

The exclusive group lost a member this year when Tonga discontinued daylight saving time after just one year. The island nation also observed daylight saving time from 1999 until 2002, a move that was sparked by its desire to be among the first to welcome the new millennium.

Kiritimati, which is also known as Christmas Island and which is part of the Republic of Kiribati, is perhaps the best known member of the group. Kiritimati, home to nearly 6,500 people, was once one of the last places to usher in the new year, but in 1995 the island skipped ahead 24 hours to use being first as a tourist draw.

For the sixth time, residents in Samoa were also among the first people in the world to welcome the new year. The island country changed its timezone at the end of December 2011 by moving to the west of the International Date Line, making it easier to do business with Australia and New Zealand in an effort to boost the economy.

New Zealand's Chatham Islands and its 600 residents entered the new year just 15 minutes after Samoa and Kiritimati, making it the second region on Earth to usher in the new year. And at 1100 GMT, Auckland will be the world's first major city to mark 2018, along with places such as Fiji, Tonga and Antarctica.

It will be followed at 1300 GMT with new year's celebrations in Australia, where a spectacular fireworks display will take place over the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney. Major events are also planned for Seoul, Hong Kong, Dubai, Moscow, Berlin, London, Rio de Janeiro, and New York City.






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