There are many common ways to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Whether that’s staying home and watching the ball drop or popping champagne at the stroke of midnight, there’s no shortage of options. But how did these traditions come to be? Discover fun facts you might not know about New Year’s, and the history behind our favorite celebrations.
Why Do We Celebrate New Year’s?
It’s no surprise that the start of a new year is cause for celebration. In fact, the occasion has been celebrated by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Many historians look to the ancient Romans and Julius Caesar as the originators of the January 1 holiday. Caesar wanted to honor the Roman god of beginnings, Janus, and thus made January 1 the official first day of the year.
Despite the influence of the Romans, New Year’s in many cultures still revolved around dates of historical or religious significance. The tradition of January 1 didn’t fully catch on in Western culture until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Pope Gregory XIII declared January 1 as the start of the new year in 1582, solidifying the date for centuries to come.
The History Behind 5 Popular New Year’s Traditions
When the new year arrives, it makes sense we’re looking toward the future. It’s a chance for a fresh start and an opportunity to make positive changes. So why do we celebrate with champagne and a giant illuminated ball? If you’ve ever wondered how these popular traditions came about, here’s some of the history behind them.
Times Square Ball Drop
Celebrating New Year’s in Times Square is a bucket-list item for many. It’s perhaps the most well-known celebration of them all. Surprisingly, the glamorous tradition started as a fireworks alternative. Owner of The New York Times, Adolph Ochs, was known for throwing large celebrations. However, after New York City banned his fireworks displays in 1907, he had to find another option. His solution was an illuminated, 700-pound iron and wood ball that would drop at the stroke of midnight.
It didn’t take long for this tradition to catch on and grow. The ball has been lowered each year since, with the exception of 1942 and 1943 due to observance of WWII blackouts. This cultural icon has come a long way since the humble beginnings of iron and wood. According to the official website of Times Square, the current ball weighs nearly six tons and features 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles.
Other Drops in the United States
While the Times Square Ball Drop might be the most well known, many other cities across the United States have put their own spin on the “drop” concept. This list includes some of the most unique alternatives you’ll find:
- Key West, FL: For those who prefer the beach over frigid Times Square temperatures, head to Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. They drop a six-foot conch shell in the countdown to midnight.
- Atlanta, GA: The “Peach State” lives up to its name with this annual event. The city drops an 800-pound illuminated peach to commemorate the arrival of the new year.
- Port Clinton, OH: Port Clinton might not be the biggest town, but it certainly has a memorable celebration. At midnight they drop a 20-foot long, 600-pound fiberglass walleye named Wylie.
- Hershey, PA: Chocolate lovers can make their way to Hershey to witness the Kiss Drop. A giant replica of the popular candy is lowered in the countdown to midnight.
- Tucson, AZ: Start your new year with some spice thanks to Tucson’s Taco Drop. Since 2014 the city has celebrated New Year’s by lowering a giant replica taco.
If your New Year’s resolution is romance, there’s no better way to start the year than with a midnight kiss. The origins of this tradition are a bit murky. Though some point to the ancient Romans, the more likely introduction came from English and German immigrants in the United States. In both cultures, a midnight kiss was thought to bring good luck.
Inevitably, sales of champagne skyrocket around New Year’s. No party is complete without the bubbly beverage. Interestingly, the tradition of a champagne toast started to take hold in the 1800s as this drink normally reserved for the elite became more accessible to the middle class. People began to keep it on hand as a fancy option to share with guests who would visit to celebrate the holiday. Between 1800 and 1850, champagne production grew from 300,000 bottles per year to a whopping 20 million.
New Year’s Resolutions
As the days in December start to dwindle, a popular topic of conversation is New Year’s resolutions. The holiday provides a convenient milestone to set goals and consider what the future holds. What originated in early times as a promise to religious entities has morphed into promises of self-improvement. The most common resolutions by Americans revolve around eating healthier, losing weight and exercising more.
Start the New Year at Friendship Village of South Hills
Friendship Village of South Hills is a connected and engaged senior living community Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania. If you’re considering a move to a community like ours in the new year, we invite you to join us for a tour, or for an exploration of our exceptional grounds and living experiences. Our residents were once just like you, trepidatious but looking forward to the changes ahead. Now they enjoy all the benefits and personal serenity of knowing their needs are cared for today and every day forward. Contact us to learn more about what makes our community such a wonderful place to live.