He was with his girlfriend and another couple when a youth approached them.
A fight broke out and the victim, who was in his early 20s, was left dying in a pool of blood.
Detectives launched a murder inquiry following the incident at about 5.30am in Pennywell Gardens, Muirhouse, Edinburgh.
One resident said: "I heard a girl screaming. She was running up and down shouting, `Please help me. My boyfriend is dying'."
During the incident, two other youths were seen coming from a vennel which leads to Muirhouse shopping centre.
They ran off at the same time as the attacker.
Detective Supt Roger Orr said: "They may have absolutely nothing to do with the incident, but I would appeal to them to come forward because they may have vital information."
Detectives took away film from the security camera of the nearby Penny Farthing pub.
Publican Billy Appleby said: "It is a tragic thing to happen on New Year's Day. I hope they get whoever is responsible and throw away the key."
Last night police were still not naming the victim because relatives had not been told.