As someone who enjoys personal space, I can’t think of many things worse than being in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Being in freezing weather, surrounded by pushy tourists, just to watch a round piece of glass slowly lower to the ground, is not my idea of fun.
But I must be in the minority, because every year hundreds of thousands of people make the trek to New York City to watch the ball drop in Times Square.
I might never understand it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn about it. Thinking about that annual event, I started to wonder how long that tradition has been around and how it first started.
The ball has been dropping every year for as long as I can remember, but I would have guessed that the first ball drop took place in the 1970s and was thrown together by some New York businessmen.
Let’s just say I was off by a few years (like 70 years).
Check out this fascinating story by CBS News that explains the past and present of this New Year’s tradition.
As the story explains, the first ball drop took place in 1904 as a publicity stunt from The New York Times.
According to president of Countdown Entertainment, Jeff Strauss, the New Year’s Eve celebration in New York originally featured fireworks, “but the fireworks would rain down on the revelers below, burning their heads, so they had to come up with a new idea. And they used a maritime tradition of lowering a time ball at noon and matched it with a new technology, the electric light bulb, to create a lighted time ball that would drop at midnight to mark the beginning of the new year.”
It’s estimated there were about 200,000 people at that first ball drop in 1907. It is estimated that one million people will be in Times Square to witness the ball drop this year.
One cool thing that I didn’t know, is that every year the ball has a different theme. This year’s theme is – The Gift of Fortitude.