Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve Times Square Ball: A History

Tonight, millions of people will gather in Times Square in the heart of New York City to watch the Waterford Crystal Times Square New Years Eve Ball drop starting at 11:59EST. This year's theme is "Let there be Joy" meaning that it is time when happiness and optimism for the future should be the main focus for the upcoming year of 2010. This year's ball, consists of 1,728 new crystals and 32,356 LED's are more than three times the number compared to last year's ball. Also, it is about ten to twenty percent more energy efficient than the 2008 ball.

So, how long have people been celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square? They have been celebrating since 1904 in the famous Square but it was not until 1907 that the ball made it's debut and descended down a flagpole on top of the Times Square Building. This first ball was made with a combination of iron and wood. It contained about one-hundred twenty-five watt light bulbs, weighed 700lbs., and measured five feet in diameter. The ball was constructed by Jacob Starr, an immigrant metalworker

The New Years Eve Ball was lowered every year since 1907 but not in 1942 or 1943 because of blackout restrictions during World War II. Instead, the people rang bells to mark the New Year. In 1920, a slightly lighter ball, weighing 400lbs., replaced the original ball and this ball was made out of wrought iron and lasted until 1955. In 1955, a new ball was constructed out of aluminum and weighed around 200lbs and lasted until the late 1990s. During the decade of the 80's, the ball was converted to an apple by the addition of a green stem and red lights, as part of the "I love New York" marketing campaign. The 1995 version of the ball was upgraded with aluminium skin, rhine stones, strobes, and computer controls. Finally, in 1998, the aluminium ball was lowered for the last time and replaced by crystals made by the Waterford Crystal Company base out of Ireland.

The concept of ball-dropping to mark the passage of time originated at England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. At 1PM every afternoon, a ball dropped that allow the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (an important navigational equipment) to the right time. After the success at Greenwich, 150 public-time balls were installed around the world. The tradition still continues today at many locations, including the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. where the time-ball descends at 12 noon everyday.

As all of you engage in your New Year's Eve traditions to help ring in the New Year, please take sometime to either watch the Ball drop live or later on video, in Times Square and appreicate how this national tradition started over 100 years ago that continues to this day. Also, you should enjoy watching the enthusiastic crowed gathered for more than six hours to witness a piece of Americana that is unique to our country. What other country has this ritual every New Year's? If any of you have been to Times Square to watch the ball dropped please send me an e-mail of your experience at or write it in the comments box. Happy New Year everybody and thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment