Kiribati has already started the new year 2011, eighteen hours before United States of America!
Kiribati, officially known as The Republic of Kiribati, was the first country to welcome the new year 2011 when it was still Friday 31st December 6:00 am Eastern Time in the United States of America. Kiribati is located in the central Pacific Ocean and was named after captain Thomas Gilbert who first sighted the country in 1788. You may wonder did they get Kiribati from “Gilbert” – one starts with a “K” the other with a “G.” However, we see the same thing in English and Spanish where “cat” starting with a “K” sound is rendered “gato’ with a hard “G.” Kiribati is made up of thirty-three coral islands which are divided into three divisions – Gilbert Islands, Phoenix islands and Line Islands.
The country has a population of about 100,835 inhabitants and the ethnic group is labeled “Micronesian.” The country is 811 sq. km. It is not as big as the city of Hong Kong which is 1,104 sq. km. or Turks and Caicos Islands at 948 sq. km, but it is bigger than Bahrain which is 758 sq. km. Different parts of the island have different times just like larger countries so it is no wonder that Kiritimati, an island in the Kiribati islands, has been singled out as seeing the new year first. How ironic that its name “Kiritimati Island” means “Christmas Island.” Christmas takes us right into the new year. Also fitting is the fact that the Kiribati islands are said to be atolls meaning that these islands are shaped like a ring with a lagoon in the middle. What better group of islands then to ring in the new year.
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