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Neighbours bring in the New Year 25 hours apart

Staff writers
December 31, 2012 — Imagine celebrating New Year's over a day before your neighbours. For some, getting one over those next to them might bring a sense of satisfaction but others might feel a bit let down.

The International Date Lines takes many detours
The International Date Lines takes many detours

The island nations of Samoa and American Samoa are just over 160 km apart but come midnight only one will have the title of "First country to bring in the New Year."

While Samoans are partying, islanders on the unincorporated territory of the United States next to them will be asleep, all because of an imaginary map feature known as the "International Date Line."

The line which appears on most maps, splits the globe in two, meaning when its Tuesday morning on the west side of the line, it's still Monday morning on the east side.

This is the first year such an event occurred after Samoa decided it would be more beneficial for trade with countries such as Australia and New Zealand if they were in the same time zone.

No treaty or international law governs the line so it can change to suit a nation's interests.

Samoa gained independence from New Zealand in 1962
Samoa gained independence from New Zealand in 1962

Unfortunately for the tiny Pacific island of Kiribati, the date line was a headache for many years until alterations were made.

Prior to 1995, the western part of the country, where the capital Tarawa lies, would be 22 hours ahead of the eastern islands.

Kiribati was authorized to modify its time zones so that the date line now takes a real mazey route of more than 2,400 kilometres around the countries eastern-most islands.

Unfortunately for the island nation, not everyone embraced the change.

In 2001 would not recognize the changes on its maps, instead simply noting "All islands east of 180 within the Republic of Kiribati observe the same date as the islands west of 180."

So if you ever travel to Kiribati, check your watch twice and be careful what maps you decide to use.

With files from CNN

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