Alexis McCrossen, a professor at SMU and an expert on how cultures have marked time in history, Joins Tim to talk about our New Year’s Eve traditions with a special focus on the story behind that Times Square Ball Drop. This episode was first released on December 24, 2018.
If you plan to watch the Times Square ball-drop at Midnight on New Year’s Eve, you’re not alone. New York City expects to play host to over 2 million people for the festivities.
- Over 175 million across the United States will watch the ball drop on TV.
- And around the world, over 1 billion people will watch.
- 103 million said they will travel 30 miles or more to celebrate
- 93.6 million will drive
When we think of New Year’s Eve, we often think of Times Square and parties at organized events, bars and restaurants, but I have some interesting statistics, thanks to WalletHub from last year:
- 49% celebrate the holiday at home
- 9% at a bar, restaurant, or organized event
- 23% don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve
- 30% said they fall asleep before Midnight
- 61% said they say a prayer on New Year’s Eve.
- Christmas 78%
- Thanksgiving 74%
- Independence Day 47%
- New Year’s Eve 41%
Most Popular New Year’s Eve Destinations
- Las Vegas
- New York City
More Times Square Stats
- 7,000 police officers in Times Square
- 1.5 tons of confetti dropped
- 280 sanitation workers will clean up 40-50 tons of trash.
- The ball itself – Waterford Crystal Triangles – 11,875 pounds
That’s today. Let’s talk about the history:
- For 4,000 years people have marked a New Year
- Public bells would herald the New Year since the Middle Ages
- Theaters, taverns and other places would be very busy on the night
- Rituals meant to augur good fortune.
- 1900 or so, the moment of Midnight became the focus because cities were illuminated with gas and electric lights. (Times Square)
- Installation of public clocks and bells
- 1907/08 was the first year to drop an illuminated time ball at the moment of the New Year’s arrival.
- Uses a flag pole atop One Times Square.
- First one was made of iron and wood and had 25-watt light bulbs. 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds.
- When radio and television media emerged, New Year’s Eve was a made for broadcast media event. Live coverage.
- Counting Down to a New Year: The History of Our Joyful Celebration, We’re History
- For Better or Worse, The New Year is Time’s Touchstone, Dallas Morning News
- A Ball of a Time: A History of the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, The New Yorker
- How Times Square Became the Home of New Year’s Eve, History.com
About this Episode’s Guest Alexis McCrossen
Alexis McCrossen is a professor of history at Southern Methodist University and has devoted her career as a cultural historian to studying how Americans observe the passage of time. She is the author of Holy Day, Holiday: The American Sunday; and Marking Modern Times: Clocks, Watches and Other Timekeepers in American Life.