'New Years Day' or 'New Year's Day': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 3, 2023

New Years Day, is an annual holiday that occurs on the first day of the year. Or is it New Year's Day? What's the difference between the two, and which is correct? In this article, you'll learn the correct way to spell it, as well as how to use it in a sentence.

If you just want the short version, here goes:

  • The correct way to spell it is New Year's Day, with an apostrophe to make it possessive. 

What Is New Year's Day?

New Year's Day is the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, which is widely used around the world. It marks the beginning of the year and is usually celebrated on January 1st. The celebration often includes various customs, traditions, and festivities.

  • In some cultures, New Year's Day is a public holiday, and businesses and schools may be closed.
  • It is a time when people come together to celebrate, share joy, and express hope for a positive and prosperous year ahead.

It's considered a holiday in and of itself, just like Valentine's Day or Christmas Day. The word 'day' is a noun and represents the 1st of January in this context. It can be used in many other contexts, too.

Here are some examples:

  • the first day of school
  • a long day
  • every day
  • Boxing Day

You'll notice that 'day' is sometimes capitalized, other times not. We'll cover that later.

Is There an Apostrophe in New Year's Day?

A quick lesson on apostrophes might be in order here. Don't worry; I'll keep it short and sweet.

An apostrophe can do two things:

  • Stand for omitted letters.
    I am → I'm
  • To form a possessive noun.
    I'm borrowing my mom's car.

Year's is a Possessive Noun

It's that second purpose that we're going to talk about now. The word 'year' in New Year's Day was intended to be a possessive noun to show that the day belongs to mothers.

When we write New Years Day without an apostrophe, 'years' is a plural noun that serves as a modifier for the word 'day.' Technically, it's grammatically correct to write it that way, but it's incorrect to write the annual holiday that way because we need to use the possessive form.

That's why the correct way to write it is New Year's Day.

Why Isn't It New Years' Day?

A possessive noun shows ownership or a relationship between two things. Based on that logic, both New Year's Day and New Years' Day should be correct, right? One refers to a single year, and the other refers to more than one year.

  • Technically, yes, that's correct. So, we just need to figure out whether the day belongs to one year (singular) or multiple years (plural).

Considering we only have one year at a time, we can only have one New Year at a time, so it makes sense that we can only have one New Year's Day at a time. That's why the correct way to write it is New Year's Day.

  • But it's actually even simpler than that. New Year's Day is an official holiday, so we needn't worry about grammatical conventions; we just spell it the way it was originally written by the people who created the holiday, and that's New Year's Day.

Hopefully, this helps you see why, even though New Year's Day and New Years' Day are both technically correct, we use the spelling New Year's Day.

Should You Capitalize 'Mother's Day?'

You might have noticed throughout this article that I have been capitalizing the words 'New,' 'Year' and 'Day.'

  • As far as capitalization goes, the rule is pretty straightforward: always capitalize proper nouns. A national holiday is considered a proper noun, and New Year's Day is considered a national holiday, so the words should be capitalized when you use them together.

If you use the words separately, that's a different story. The term 'new' on its own isn't a proper noun, and neither is 'year' and 'day.'

Here are some examples of these words used as common nouns:

I just bought a new car, and I'm excited to take it for a spin.

After a year of hard work, she finally achieved her career goals and was proud of her accomplishments. 

Following a long day at the office, she looked forward to relaxing at home and spending time with her family.

Both words are always capitalized when used together to form the compound proper noun New Year's Day.

Example Sentences

Now that we've covered the proper use of apostrophes and when to capitalize the words, let's look at some examples of the term New Year's Day in sentences.

Here they are:

On New Year's Day, many people wake up excited, eager to get a start on those resolutions.

We celebrated New Year's Day with a festive dinner to start the year on the right foot.

It has become a tradition for our family to gather on New Year's Day to share a special meal and reflect on the past year.

In some cultures, New Year's Day is observed with religious ceremonies and rituals to bring blessings for the year ahead.

The city was quieter than ever on New Year's Day, as most people were in bed recovering from the previous night's celebrations.

Concluding Thoughts

That brings us to the end of this article about this popular holiday. Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Always use the apostrophe on New Year's Day.
  • Apostrophes make a noun possessive.
  • New Years Day is never correct.
  • It's a national holiday, so both words should be capitalized when used together.

If you'd like to learn about more national holidays, check out our dedicated blog. There, you'll find many other articles like this one, where you can learn how to spell holiday names correctly.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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