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Celebrating New Years Eve in New York City and Around the World

Updated on September 10, 2012

New Years Eve Trivia

In Case You Were Wondering...

  • 1904 was the first celebration of New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square.
  • Times Square used to be called Longacre Square but was renamed for the The New York Times Newspaper heaquarters.
  • That year, the second tallest building in Manhattan was the Times Tower where the New York Times printed its newspaper
  • The owner of the newspaper, Alfred Ochs, threw the biggest ever New Years Eve bash to celebrate including an elaborate fireworks display
  • Prior to 1904, the New Year’s Eve place to be in New York was at the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan, where crowds of people would gather to hear the bells toll at midnight.  It was a tradition going back from the 1800’s.   
  • the first ball drop started in 1907 to usher in 1908 from the NY Times Building flagpole.
  • The 1st New Year’s Eve ball that was dropped, was five feet in diameter and constructed with iron and wood and decorated with 100 twenty-five watt bulbs, weighing 700 lbs in total.    
  • The lit up ball drop showed off the new invention of electricity and was a technological marvel at the time
  • Hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd were in awe at the bright lights descending down the flagpole.       
  • Every year the ball has been lowered starting at 11:59 p.m. on Dec 31.  in 1942 and 1943 because of WWII war effort to cut back,  The New Year was observed with a moment of silence and then chimes rang out from sound trucks located near by.      
  • In 1920 the ball was redesigned and made completely of wrought iron and now weighed only 400 lbs.
  • In 1955 the ball was remade with aluminum and now weighed 200 lbs.
  • In 1961 One Times Square was redesigned into a marble building
  • 1981-1988 the ball was covered with red bulbs and a green stem to appear as an apple for the “big apple” campaign in New York.
  • Waterford Crystal redesigned the enitre ball for the millenium celebration in 2000.
  • New Year’s Eve 2010 descended the largest crystal ball ever. It weighs 11,875 lbs, and is twelve feet in diameter. It has 2,688 Waterford Crystals adorning it, and uses 32, 256 environmentally friendly LED lights.  

New Year’s Eve and the dropping of the ball is an iconic symbol around the entire world, as we acknowledge the transition in time from one year to the next.  Ahh, the stories that One Times Square could tell about this date every year.  Every Dec 31st people from all over the world, come to Times Square in New York City to see the annual ball drop, with all its glitter, opulence, and sparkle. And millions more watch it on TV and on webcasts, to revel in the start of a new year that brings hope for new and better things to come.  video

One Million People filled Times Square

As the ball drops there are people in Times Square and almost everywhere singing the song ”Auld Lang Syne”. In case you were wondering what this song means, it was written in 1788 by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet. He first heard the song when it was sung by an old man from his hometown area of Ayrshire in Scotland. The translation means old long since, a kind of song about the good old days. If you listen to the song, the words tell you, to move forward, leave the past behind and look toward the next year with a new feeling of positive things and hope.  Guy Lombardo the band conductor,and his band,  His Royal Canadians that made the song a household tune. Starting in 1929,, Guy Lombardo would play the song at midnight on New Years. He started a traditionevery year until 1976. It started on the radio, and transitioned to television. The traditional New Year’s kiss goes back to Rome in ancient times when the Romans kissed each other to celebrate the winter solstice at the end of the year.  The German and English legend comes from the belief that you kissed the first person, you saw, no matter who they were, or how well you did or didn’t know them, when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Aside from Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve is the most romantic night of the year.  Throughout the United States there are many traditions old and new, but the ball at Times Square is probably the most famous.

To celebrate 2011, New York City had almost one million people fill the crowd at Times Square for the New Year’s celebration.  Around the world, there were other traditional celebrations happening. 

Around the World

In the South Pacific, like  New Zealand, where they are the first to celebrate the New Year around the world, fireworks brighten the night over Sky Tower in Auckland. In Austrailia, fireworks were seen by a million and a half viewers.

Asia was filled with midnight celebrations. Along Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, the sparkling fireworks exploded from the tops of the ten most well known buildings in the city.  In Tokyo, The bell rang out from the Zojoji temple,and  monks were chanting as people let off silver balloons filled with notes as the New Year arrived. InJapan, the New Year is a very important holiday. and is symbolic of renewal.  December is noted with many parties called Bonenkai meaning to “forget the year” parties. as a way to say goodbye to the woes of the old year and welcome the New Year. It is traditional for Buddhists temples to gong 108 times. This is done because they believe there are 108 kinds of human weaknesses. 

Celebrations Around the World

In Europe, it was guessed that 250,000 people watched fireworks over the Thames River in England.  The day before New Years Eve, Scotland started their 4 day Hogmanay Festival. Hogmanay is the winter holidy filled with traditions that celebrate the New Year for a 4 day time period. It is a national tradition, yet it is observed with many  local customs with great popularity throughout Scotland. In the Netherlands, bonfires of Christmas trees are burned on the Dutch streets to purge themselves of the old, and prepare for the new. In Spain, the celebratants gathered in Madrid in the Puerta Del Sol square where people ate 12 grapes, one for each of the twelve chimes when the clock struck midnight. The tradition is called Las Uvas. After they eat the grapes, drinking and spraying each other with sparkling wine rings in the New Year. The idea of chewing the grapes is sign a good luck to come.

In Greece, they have the Festival of St. Basil, who was one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox church.  They traditionally bake a cake with a coin inside. Whoever finds the silver or gold coin in the cut piece of cake will have luck throughout the year. 

The Tradition of New Years Eve

Throughout the world, and through the ages, New Year’s Eve is a time honored tradition. Time marches on and so we might as well celebrate the passage of it as we mark the arrival of a new year.  To one and all, may your year be filled with good things that help us all be the best we can, do the best we can, and see the best in each other and the world around us.  


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    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      New Years Eve is a great holiday, because it is a shared event throughout the world. It is one of those times that bonds us all, and that is a good thing.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 7 years ago from Minnesota

      Thank You for the fun hub on New Years Eve celebrations throughout the world.

      Our family tradition is having a buffet of great foods and watching Dick Clark's Rockin Eve to bring in the new year. There is something so exciting about counting down and seeing all the music and sweet Dick Clark.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      I am really glad you got to see Times Square and to experience New York City. Manhattan is amazing any time of the year, and I hope you get to visit again! It is amazing to hear of different experiences of New Years Eve in Times Square. I lost my mother a few months ago, but the famous story she had about Times Square, was that while she was dating my father, he insisted on going to Times Square for New Years Eve. She didn't want to go, they went, she got pushed and shoved,and was freezing cold, and broke up with him the next day. The day after that, my father cut a picture of an engagement ring out of a newspaper and asked her to marry him. They were married for 34 years, until my father died. They never spent another New Years Eve in Times Square, but my mother always loved New York, just not on Dec 31.

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 7 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      In my growing up years my mother always talked about Time's Square on New Years Eve. and told me if I ever got the chance to see it I would love it. Guy Lombardo sang

      ”Auld Lang Syne” as we watched the ball drop every year.

      My mom is no longer here with us but in 2009 I went to New York to see for myself.

      It was a trip I will always remember. Television does not do justice as to how amazing it is. I was awestruck as to how high and colorful the billboards really were.

      I wish everyone could have the opportunity to see Time's Square on New Years' Eve at least once in their life time. Nicely done toknowinfo.