A whole lot of things are characteristic of celebrations that mark the end of a year and signals the dawn of another. Food and festivities are obviouses indeed but it also would be customs and traditions that would rule the unfurling in chararacteristic grace. Some of these might be finding identity out of folk beliefs or continuing legends even as others stem of a more contemporary context but has prevailed to be no any less prominent as well.
One such global standard that the New Year’s celebration has established itself in, even when being a very country specific happening is what has amassed an iconic somewhat reputation as the ‘ball drop’. Even when the meaning of it does not hold as a palindrome in the dropped- ball instead manner of referring, the New Year’s Ball Drop or as essentially the Times Square Ball Drop is one of the most defining events signaling a transition from one year to the other.
A tradition continuing through more than a century now and one that has come to be very instantly recognisable in its quintessential New Year’s vibe, the ball drop is a very American thing in its physical occurring. It of course is the significant itself premises of the Times Square in New York City from where this phenomenon unravels every single year, like it has been doing ever since its envisioning as a minute- long countdown in immense anticipation for the year that is setting in. The item of dropping is a ball indeed, first coming to be the harbinger of new beginnings upon the penultimate minute of the year of 1907 under the aegis of The New York Times newspaper after which the square as well takes its prominent identity.
First organized by the newspaper’s then owner Adolph Ochs, the ball drop came to be upon a premise of a continuing New Year’s celebration spurred still by the very fact that endowed this namesake upon the event as well as the building. First unfurled in 1904 as a fireworks show to welcome the incoming year of 1905, it was this traditional version of the celebrations that received a uplift and by quite grand a measure in manifesting. And thus came to be the now iconic Times Square Ball a quintessential New Year’s future and one that owes its idea in happening to the newspaper’s chief electrician Walter F. Palmer.
What Palmer suggested as a unique way in ushering in newer days and months over the turn of the calendar’s pages was derived upon the existing assertion of the means and manner of functioning of time balls. These themselves had been as significant entities themselves in their own distinctive identity albeit occurring through a very different mode of intention. The design itself of the Times Square Ball might have been devised by the Artkraft Strauss Company, so distinguished as well in being the creator of so many of the iconic symbols seen in striking representations upon the square. But tracing the origins from which the idea stemmed in different still iterations of the entity of the time ball lands one instead upon the shores of a 19th century England.
The settings unfurl across a naval dimension in the essence of accurate timekeeping so crucial in this definite paradigm of the human pursuit. Invented upon such basis of requiring by the then Royal Navy captain Robert Wauchope in 1829 would be this modern device of ancient alluding. Interestingly much, the ball drop had been already prevalent a way in telling time in a Greece of an era still claiming for themselves the city of Gaza. From that occurrence in regularity to the significant much stature attained upon the seascape and from thereon drawing upon the legacy of either existence to find more popular favouring as the New Year’s ball drop, this ingenious means in timekeeping has itself managed to keep up with the times indeed.
Right from the year of its ‘drop’- a downward launch perhaps, the Times Square Ball has managed to grab the attention of the world’s enthusiastic New Year revelers. An annual event ever since, with the exception of the wartime years of 1942 and 1943, the tradition of this drop has continued to be anticipated in much frenzy by not just people of the U.S. residing but also globally. Buoyant in its usually million in- person attendance as well as an as characteristic billion strong non- live attendance, this continent specific occurring today asserts as a universal countdown indeed for every new year to set in. So much so that it feels as if January 1 does not quite descend from dwelling on the promising horizon without this remarkable round of the yearly rotation doing its dramatic drop.
Grand indeed is the scale as well as the sight of the spectacle through which more than a century’s churn of the days and nights have prevailed, each in their own definite distinction. Grander no less is also the dynamics through which the ball itself has evolved to reinstate itself in relevance. Through its memorable span of the entire 115 years in existence, the Time Square Ball has been made to constantly reinvent itself in rolling. And thus has existed 5 different versions of the ball, each one technologically more equipped than the earlier, imbibing perhaps as part of its very essence that representation in what it finds ‘reverence’.
The first assertion of this phenomenon had been an illuminated built of iron and wood, with a hundred 25 watt incandescent light bulbs placed inside the 5 feet in diameter sphere weighing a whopping 700 pounds. In its opening year, the ball would be meant to countdown only the last 10 seconds of the year that was about to bow out. But it wouldn’t just be the drop itself that would govern conditions along which the first ever celebration of such distinction would unfurl. The specially designed Jacob Starr creation’s maiden descent from the flagpole atop the One Times Square building might be an enduring tradition today, but the accompanying magnitude of what was made to unfold in the vicinity of this historic happening was no less remarkable as well.
The epochal era dawned also in exclusive ‘entitlement’ for the year of 1908, as eateries in and around the venue too was prepped up to dish out specialities. Quite uniquely though it wasn’t the food that would be curated to cheer through the celebrations. Instead it was the characteristic attire and manner through which the waiters in the fabled ‘lobster palaces’ and other starry restaurants were made to partake of the spirit in novelty that proved to be exceptional.
All hatted up in battery powered headgears very evidently flashing some bulb studded depiction of the 1908 numeral would be these people customarily included in the moment of iconic defining. And this they did by flipping their lids at the stroke of midnight as also the exact moment when the ultimate year of all unprecedentedness would lit up from upon their foreheads along even as a greater show of the same accord would characterise simultaneous occurrings upon the Times Tower. And thus history would be made and a tradition established and the stage set for an iconic moment in what would dictate indeed the penultimate proceedings of every outgoing year ever.
This first ever of all Times Square Ball drops to follow would spark also the more traditional wire of the celebrations to find exuberant expression. As the ball dropped from atop the flagpole and landed on the roof, what ensued was a fireworks show initiated by a lighting up of the 5 foot tall signs on the sides of the building. The legacy would be continued through these very specifications till the 1919-20 year of farewelling and welcoming when the ball would be made to drop in a lighter make. The magnitude of the drop itself however would not see any lesser interpretation in intensity, with the now 400 pound heavy sphere of all iron dictating proceedings for the entire years of passing right up to the 1954-55 wishes of the many Happy New Years.
The third design followed as an aluminium construct 6 feet in diameter and 150 pounds in weight. Throughout the range of time through which it beckoned the years till 1998, this version saw continuous modifications made to its essence. Asserting as the Big Apple indeed of the New York reference during the 1981-82 appearance in a red bulbed and green stemmed manner of doing its job while incorporating an additional second in the drop duration for Shield. This dimension of lighting would come also to emerge as a computerized system from the 1995-96 event with 180 halogen bulbs and 144 strobe lights and over 12,000 rhinestones striving to make the heralder of every new year spectacular indeed a spectacle as the world inched towards the remarkable landmark of hosting a whole new millennium.
Even the drop would come to be computerized a happening in itself but despite the elaborate proceedings supposedly setting the stage for the 2000s to find a grand ushering in it would be quite a ‘tragedy’ indeed that this ‘illustrious’ third ball would be retired the year right before what would mark the dawn of the new whole era in centennial as well as millennial defining. The legacy of much evolution though would be accorded due honor indeed, as it would be placed on display at the headquarters of the Jamestown Group that owned One Times Square.
The distinction thus of specialness rests with the fourth ball most prominently, as being the version through which the 21st century would come to date the world. Identifying as a 6 feet in diameter, 1070 pounds construct with over 600 halogen bulbs, 504 triangle shaped crystal panels, 96 strobe lights and spinning, pyramid shaped mirrors decking it up for it to deck up further the already glittering glow of the extravagant newness, this fourth ball would dictate proceedings right up to the year before the by now iconic already assertion of the Times Square Ball would gear up for celebrations of its own century long beginnings.
It would therefore be the fifth identity of the ball that was debuted for the 2007-08 event. Measuring again 6 feet in diameter, this weightier 1,212 pounds design was also made to be more energy efficient, emanating still that characteristic celebratory light through the 9576 LED lamps dominating its premises. An even larger version of the fifth ball was meant to serve the purpose in attending alluding to the year of 2009 with double the diameter and several times greater a weight over the original. This version while would be lit by a greater count of some 32,256 LED lamps would also manifest as weatherproof due to intentions in being put up for year round display following the celebrations. And sure enough, it was made to stand by such envisioning by putting it up for display at the Times Square Visitor Center.
And thus this is it- the significant history of the entity summing up a tradition as significant in its signalling of the final minute of the year that would cease to be. Parallelly indeed and on the other end of the spectrum, the greater realisation is that of another reverberating chant of many Happy New Year’s to enthuse the world in all proclamation of its verve prevailing through the ultimate strand of what validates the human vulnerability in hoping. No wonder the tradition has stood the test of time as one of the most staggering manifestation of celebrations conjuring up the certain charm associated with every change of the calendar.