Each year, hundreds of thousands of people gather around Times Square and wait for hours in the wintery New York for the famous ball-dropping ceremony. Thanks to technology and the Age of Information, a worldwide audience estimated at over one billion people watch the ceremony each year. As a result, the famed ball drop has become the world’s symbolic welcome to the new year. Yet, many people who spend New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop are unaware of the origins of this annual tradition. Why do we wait in such anticipation and excitement just to watch a ball drop? Is this tradition really worth our time? In order to find out, we must dig deep into the minds of the viewers to uncover what attracts people from all over the world to this form of celebration.
It all began in 1907 when the New Year’s Eve ball made its first descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square. As part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in the fabled “lobster palaces” and other deluxe eateries in the hotels surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats. These were decorated with flashing colors and light bulbs and had the numbers “1908” written on them. At midnight, they all “flipped their lids” and the year lit up on their foreheads along with an illumination of the number “1908” on the Times Tower wall. The whole city was surprised and excited, looking forward to seeing the spectacle again the following year. For many, seeing the immense size and grandeur of the ball gave them a sense of elation and anticipation for entering the new year. The ball brought everyone together, and it created a joyous atmosphere that everyone could appreciate.
However, today many critics advise against attending the New Year’s Eve ball dropping celebration. They argue that it gets dangerously cold in New York during this time of year, and it is very difficult to get to the right spot to be able to see the ball drop clearly; much less see the ball drop at all. Most of the time is spent standing around, waiting. Yet, despite these setbacks, more and more people continue to show up. Each year roughly 1 million people pack the streets of Times Square on New Year’s Eve just to watch the ball drop. So, why do so many people go through the trouble to get to this event? Simple: it is because of all the hype this tradition gets from word of mouth and because of the thrill in watching it. Although we may not realize it, the ball dropping celebration serves as a symbol of our harmony and camaraderie. Whether we are in Times Square shivering in our coats with friends and family, or if we’re simply bundled up on our couch: counting down the seconds to the new year brings us a sense of exhilaration and happiness that is irreproducible.
Graphic: Maraea Garcia