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Happy New Year, Years, or Year’s Eve or Day? Capitalized?

Is it “Happy New Year” or “Happy New Years?” What about New Years or New Year’s? Added to these questions about plurals and apostrophes for this holiday, which words are capitalized for New Year’s Eve, Day, or resolutions? Find out here!

As background, my name is Lillie, and I’ve been an English teacher for 18 years — and I’m also an artist. This means that in this lesson, I’ll clearly explain the correct spelling and punctuation for these festive words, using my hand-created cute drawings to help you remember.

Happy New Year or Happy New Years?
There’s only one new year coming!

Happy New Year or Happy New Years?

Let’s start with the easiest part of this grammatical equation, which I’ve illustrated above. Is it correct to say “Happy New Year” or “Happy New Years?”

Well, adding an “s” to the end of “Year” makes it plural, meaning that “Happy New Years!” suggests that there is more than one new year about to start. Um, no. Since we don’t live in a Science-Fiction world in which that is possible, there is only one new year coming, and thus the correct greeting is: “Happy New Year!” — not “Years.”

So, where does this urge to add an “s” at the end of the phrase come from? Most likely, the person is trying to say, “Happy New Year’s Eve!” or “Happy New Year’s Day!” — both of which WOULD be correct, as I will explain in this next section about apostrophe use. (As you’ve seen in my Father’s Day apostrophe article, there’s much to. say about this little punctuation mark.)

New Years or New Year’s

What is the correct apostrophe use for “New Year’s Eve” and other such phrases, so you don’t have to hide by abbreviating it as “NYE?” Here’s the background rule: You use an apostrophe followed by the letter “s” if you’re describing something that belongs to someone (ex: Ms. Marshall’s octopus is the octopus that belongs to Ms. Marshall, and St. Patrick’s Day is the holiday belonging to Saint Patrick), or if you’re making a contraction with a word that ends in “s” — usually “is” — for example, that + is = that’s.

In the phrases, “New Year’s Eve,” “New Year’s Day,” and “New Year’s resolutions,” the Eve, Day, and resolutions all belong to the New Year, so the correct way to write it is, “New Year’s” with the apostrophe and “s” at the end to signify possession. Now it’s time to talk about capitalization.

New Years or New Year's, illustrated.
New Years or New Year’s, illustrated.

Is “Happy New Year” Capitalized?

A word is capitalized if it is at the start of a sentence, or if it is a proper noun, such as the name of a holiday. For example in our Easter egg drawing lesson, we saw that “Easter” needs to be capitalized. Because New Year’s Eve and Day are holidays, each of their words should be capitalized.

The same goes for the two words “New Year,” (without “Eve” or “Day”), as long as you’re referring to the holiday. This means that “Happy New Year” is the correct capitalization. (Side note: If you want to learn a crazy capitalization rule, check out, “Are seasons capitalized?”)

Now, if you’re talking about New Year’s resolutions, “New Year” is capitalized because it’s a holiday, but “resolutions” is not, because it’s separate from the official day’s title.

The “Happy” in “Happy New Year” is also capitalized IF it’s at the start of a sentence, as it usually is, but if it’s in the middle of the sentence, you would leave it lower case. For example: “I want to wish you a happy New Year!” (The same holds true with Valentine’s Day spelling.)

If you’re just talking about the new year in general (ex: “At some point in the new year, I’ll fly to Mexico”), the words “new year” remain lower case, because it’s no longer a proper noun if it’s not the name of a holiday. Speaking of Mexico…

Is New Year's Eve capitalized?
Is New Year’s Eve capitalized?

Happy New Year in Spanish

Now we get to a part of the lesson which will save you a lot of embarrassment: How do you say “Happy New Year in Spanish?” The answer is: “Feliz año nuevo” — and you MUST make sure to have the tilde (wavy line) over the “n,” or you’ll accidentally end up saying something extremely awkward!

VIDEO: How to Spell New Year’s

See a time-lapse video of my illustrations about New Years vs. New Year’s.

Writing New Year’s, in Sum

I hope this lesson on New Year or New Years or New Year’s or new year has proven useful, as well as entertaining, and that you can now wield those apostrophes, plurals, and capital letters with confidence! What else would you like me to illustrate and explain? Do share!

Want some fuel for your New Year’s resolutions? Check out “How to Stop Snacking at Night,” “How to Quit Coffee,” “Drawing Prompts,” and “How to Apologize.”