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Melanie Renzulli

Why New York Celebrates New Year's Eve By Watching a Ball Drop

By December 31, 2012

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Times Square Ball from 2000

Watching the ball drop in New York City's Times Square on New Year's Eve has been a tradition for nearly 100 years. But why, exactly, do tourists flock to New York to watch a glowing, 11,875-pound ball descend down a flagpole at One Times Square?

Writing for The Atlantic Cities, Conor Friedersdorf uncovers the history behind the celebration. In 1903, following the completion of the new headquarters for the New York Times, publisher Alfred Ochs "resolved to throw a New Year's Eve celebration that would be the talk of the town" complete with fireworks.  Previous New Year's Eve celebrations had been held at Trinity Church on Wall Street.

An annual event was born -- but two years later, the city prohibited the fireworks display. "Ochs was undaunted," the official history continues. "He arranged to have a large, illuminated seven-hundred-pound iron and wood ball lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to signal the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908." Thus the origin of today's celebration.

The Atlantic Cities goes on to provide a great explanation of the evolving ball technology and excellent archival photos of the New Year's Eve ball.

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