On the last day of each year, it has become a ritual for large crowds to gather in the brightly lit chaos of Times Square in New York to give a fresh start. At 23:59 a brilliant ball descends at a pole, while the participants – and millions of people who call in from home – count from 60. By midnight, the crowd bursts into a cacophony of sound and often pulls loved ones for a ceremonial kiss.
New Year’s Eve has its own set of rituals: the ball fall, decisions and sealing the new year with a kiss. Credit: Bettmann Archive / Getty Images
The Times Square Ball had seven different designs. Credit: RW / MediaPunch / IPx / AP
This is the first year since 1904 that the crowd has been banned from flocking to Times Square. Although the ball fall was canceled for two years during World War II, people still came to observe the tradition and kept a minute of silence.
In the last century, the symbol of the New Year – the light ball – has evolved from an iron and wooden cage decorated with light bulbs to a dazzling technicolor crystal object.
But how did this New Year’s Eve celebration begin, and why do we commemorate the occasion by watching a ball fall off a pole?
The Times Square ball began thanks to a Ukrainian immigrant and metalworker named Jacob Starr and former New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs. The latter successfully brought crowds to the new skyscraper home in Times Square through fireworks and fireworks to celebrate the coming year, but city officials banned the use of explosives after only a few years.
In 1907, Ochs Starr, who worked for the drawing company Strauss Signs (later known as Artkraft Strauss, who served as Starr’s president), created a new visual exhibition.
Crowds gather in Times Square until December 31, 1938. The intersection has been hosting New Year’s Eve celebrations since 1904. Credit: – / AFP / Getty Images
The new concept was based on time balls, nautical equipment that became popular in the 19th century. As timing became more precise, ship navigators needed a standardized way to set their chronometers. Every day, ports and observatories would have lifted and lowered a metal ball at the same time, allowing sailors to synchronize their instruments.
Both Ochs and New York Times chief electrician Walter Palmer attributed the idea, apparently inspired by the downtown Western Union building, which dropped a timeline every afternoon. But Starr’s granddaughter Tama, who joined Artkraft Strauss in 1982 and now owns the business, said in a telephone interview that she believes it was her grandfather who dropped the concept of the ball and at midnight with the new years have eased. .
One design of the New Year’s ball was an aluminum cage with light bulbs. Credit: David Handschuh / AP
“The idea was to … lighten it up with the brand new electricity that had just come up in the neighborhood,” said Tama, who served as chairman of the Times Square Ball Waste for years. “And it was lowered by hand … from one minute to midnight, and it was done that way for many years.”
“It was an adaptation of an old useful thing,” she added. “It was instantly popular. People just loved it.”
When the ball came out at the breastplate with a plate with the numbers of the year, “the electrician would throw the switch, turn the ball off and turn on the numbers at the same time,” Tama said. “It looked like the ball was coming down in the number series.”
Artkraft Strauss, a sign company founded by Jacob Starr, was responsible for the ball design and its fall for almost a century. Credit: Marty Lederhandler / AP
The entire Times Square appeared on the scene. In the first year, waiters in nearby restaurants and hotels wore battery-powered “1908” hats that lit them up by midnight.
“It looked like magic to people,” Tama said.
‘A minute out of time’
There have been seven different Times Square balls since its first descent, from a 700-pound iron structure with 25-watt light bulbs, to a lighter post-World War II aluminum frame, to a ‘Big Apple’ during city administration. former mayor Ed Koch.
During Mayor Ed Koch’s administration, the ball turned into an apple as part of the ‘I Love New York’ campaign. Credit: Leader trader / AP
In 1995, when the ball received a brilliant update with rhinestones, strobe lights and computer controls, traditional plate makers were no longer needed – meaning that Artkraft Strauss, the company that brought the ball to Times Square, was no longer needed. . Today’s ball is a collaboration between Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting, using 32256 LEDs that can be programmed to display millions of colors and patterns on the surface.
Nevertheless, Tama remembers her years on the roof of One Times Square. She took turns supervising her brother and playing timekeeper. When the last minute of the year arrived, the workers lowered the ball with a complex pulley system.
Using a series of tape markers on the pole, Tama was responsible for saying that they had to accelerate or decelerate. With every grain of attention on the task, even the team’s breathing would weaken during the 60 seconds, she said.
During the millennium, the Times Square ball took on a new look, featuring a Crystalford Crystal design and Philips lighting. Credit: Kathy Willens / AP
In performing this ritual year after year, Tama sees an intrinsic connection between the countdown, which she calls ‘a minute out of time’ and the making of New Year’s resolutions.
“When you concentrate really hard, time seems to slow down,” she said. “It felt like the longest minute in the world. It felt like you had time to wash your hair, call your mother, change your life. You can really change your life in one minute – you can decide otherwise. “You can decide to be friendlier and better.”