The Star-Herald

Heralding the new year

How do you “ring in” the New Year?  Do you have a special food?  Watch the ball drop in Times Square?  Make a resolution or two?  

According to History.com, people have been celebrating the new year for over 4,000 years.   In fact, it is thought that making resolutions first began with the ancient Babylonians (1895 BC-539 BC). 

It wasn’t until the reign of Julius Caesar (46-44 BC), however, that Jan. 1 was actually named as New Year’s Day.  

People around the world celebrate New Year’s Eve with special foods, fireworks, songs, and more.  One traditional song in English-speaking countries is, of course, “Auld Lang Syne.”  As a side note, the song is based on a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788.  The words literally translate to “old long since,” but are meant to convey “long, long ago.”

One of the “newer” ways to celebrate is to participate in First Night activities.  First Night, now a trademarked event name, was created by artist Clara Wainwright for the Dec. 31, 1975, celebration in Boston.  It is an alcohol-free, family-oriented celebration with both indoor and outdoor venues.  Today, First Night is officially celebrated in over 150 U.S. cities plus Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  

In the 1800s, churches would often ring the bells in their steeples to herald in the New Year.  Today, one of the most popular traditions is watching the “ball” drop in Times Square in New York.  This tradition first took place on Dec. 31, 1907, in New York.  However, it was wasn’t until 1913 that the ball drop moved to its current location in Times Square.  

The first ball was constructed of iron and wood, had a diameter of five feet, weighed about 700 pounds, and was lit by 100 25-watt bulbs.  Today, the ball is 12 feet in diameter, weighs 11,875 pounds, is covered with 2,688 triangular Waterford crystals, and is lit by 32,256 LED lights.  

Hundreds of thousands attend the ball drop in person, while an estimated one billion watch the event on television.  

However you choose to celebrate, may you have a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.  

Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.

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