Kiritimati (UTC+14), part of
Kiribati, is the first location in
the world to welcome the New Year.
Kiritimati or Christmas Island is a
Pacific Ocean raised coral atoll in
the northern Line Islands, and part
of the Republic of Kiribati.
island has the greatest land area of
any coral atoll in the world: about
322 square kilometres (124 sq mi);
its lagoon is about the same size.
The atoll is about 150 km (93 mi) in
perimeter, while the lagoon
shoreline extends for over 48 km (30
mi). Christmas Island comprises over
70% of the total land area of
Kiribati, a country encompassing 33
Pacific atolls and islands.
Kiritimati Island (Christmas) is
well known for its world class bone
fishing. It also has excellent
birdwatching and surfing
opportunities. It lies 232 km (144
mi) north of the Equator, 6,700 km
(4,200 mi) from Sydney, and 5,360 km
(3,330 mi) from San Francisco.
Christmas Island is in the world's
farthest forward time zone, UTC+14,
and Christmas Island is the first
inhabited place on Earth to
experience the New Year each year
(see also Caroline Atoll, Kiribati).
Despite being 1,530 miles (2,460 km)
east of the 180 meridian, a 1995
realignment of the International
Dateline by the Republic of Kiribati
"moved" Christmas Island to west of
Western discovery, Christmas Island
was uninhabited. As on other Line
Islands there might have been a
small or temporary native
population, most probably Polynesian
traders and settlers, who would have
found the island a useful
replenishing station on the long
voyages from the Society Islands to
Hawaii, perhaps as early as AD 400.
This trade route was apparently used
with some regularity by about AD
1000. From 1200 onwards Polynesian
long-distance voyages became less
frequent, and had there been human
settlement on Christmas Island, it
would have been abandoned in the
early-mid second millennium AD. Two
possible village sites and some
stone structures of these early
visitors have been located. Today,
most inhabitants are Micronesians,
and Gilbertese is the only language
of any significance. English is
generally understood, but little
used outside the tourism sector.