Week One


Why do we drop a ball on New Year's Eve?  Why did the tradition begin?


The dropping of a sparkling ball in Times Square in New York is modeled on a much older practice. Sometimes called time balls, the concept was originally a practical one: a ball descended from a pole or pulley system to alert passersby as to the time of day.
Royal Greenwich Observatory     time ball
One of the first time balls, installed at the Royal Greenwich Observatory outside London, England, dropped daily at 1 PM so that captains of ships passing on the River Thames could verify the time on their chronometers.
HOWEVER, that’s not the answer to the question, why did the tradition begin on New Year’s Eve.
fireworks in NY
Times Square in New York was a gathering place for New Year’s Eve celebrations by 1904. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in Midtown Manhattan near the brand-new New York Times building. At midnight, pyrotechnics were set off, making the building look like it was on fire. However, the display also rained hot ash onto the New York City streets, a liability that worried city officials so much that fireworks were banned in 1907.
Times Square Ball
Not to be deterred from putting on a fabulous show, the Times introduced a new gimmick to bring partyers to Times Square: the New Year’s Eve Ball. The first ball bore little resemblance to today’s crystal one. It weighed about 700 pounds, was crafted out of iron and wood, and decorated with 25-watt light bulbs. Its designer was Jacob Starr, an electric sign designer, and manufacturer who supervised when, at the stroke of midnight, the ball was lowered by an elaborate pulley system.
So the short answer was that dropping a ball was the safer alternative to fireworks. Unfortunately, we had no winner this week.

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