Saturday is New Year’s Eve and many of us are trying to figure out how we will usher in the beginning of 2017. A recent poll of 1000 Americans found that while 66% plan to celebrate on New Year’s Eve, 54% of those will do so at home or at the home of loved ones.
The overall consensus seems to be that going out that night is overrated because the celebration rarely lives up to expectations. People are concerned about where to celebrate, spending too much money so soon after Christmas, and the dangers of drinking and driving or being on the road while others are drinking and driving.
Three years ago, my husband and I began a tradition of trying a new restaurant for lunch on New Year’s Eve day. Because many people do still go out for New Year’s Eve dinner, the restaurants are easy to get into at lunchtime and are often decorated beautifully for the anticipated evening crowd.
We are still deciding which restaurant we will try this year, but we plan to be home by evening when the revelers hit the roads. Like many Americans, we will probably tune in for the live entertainment before the ball drops in Times Square at 11:59 p.m.
The actual idea of ball “dropping” to signal the passage of time dates all the way back to the year 1833. That year, the first time ball was installed at Greenwich on top of England’s Royal Observatory. The ball would drop at precisely one o’clock every afternoon so the captains of nearby ships could set their chronometers.
Although approximately 150 time balls were installed around the world after the success of the time ball in Greenwich, very few of them still work today. One of the remaining working time balls is located at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. It descends from a flagpole at noon each day.
The most famous time ball is the one that has been descending 141 feet in 60 seconds in Times Square for over 100 years. The tradition began on December 31, 1907 by Adolph Ochs, (who was the owner of The New York Times newspaper) to welcome the year 1908. The time ball has descended down the flagpole atop One Times Square every New Year’s Eve since then except in the years 1942 and 1943 in observance of wartime blackouts.
The ball’s design has been updated seven times over the years to reflect improvements in lighting technology. The original design was made from wood and iron. It weighed 700 pounds and was lit with 100 light bulbs.
The original time ball was replaced first in 1920 by a 400 pound wrought iron ball, then in 1955 by a 150 pound aluminum ball with 180 light bulbs. In 1995, the aluminum ball was upgraded with rhinestones and computer controls.
The first crystal New Year’s Eve time ball was created in 1999 to welcome the new millennium. In 2007, for the 100th Anniversary of the New Year’s Eve time ball, the light bulbs were replaced with modern LED technology.
Finally, in 2008, the final and permanent version of the time ball was unveiled atop One Times Square. Instead of appearing only on New Year’s Eve, it sits and sparkles above Times Square throughout the year. This final version of the time ball is a geodesic sphere with an aluminum frame, 12 feet in diameter, and weighs 11,875 pounds. The Ball is covered with a total of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and is illuminated by 32,256 Phillips LEDs (light emitting diodes).
This proud tradition of the Times Square ball drop is now a universal symbol of the New Year and will be seen this year by an estimated one million people in Times Square and over a billion people worldwide. Will you be one of them?