A Short History of New Year’s Eve in the Big Apple

In 1904, New York City gathered in Times Square for the first New Year’s Eve celebration. Before this year, the center of New York City social life was downtown, and New Year’s Eve always celebrated at Trinity Church. The opening of the first subway line that linked City Hall to Times Square immediately transformed New York City business and social life. The New York Times moved its headquarters to Longacre Square – a collection of horse stables at the time – and convinced their friends in City Hall to rename it after the newspaper the New York Times. At that time, it was an upstart rival competing with the New York Herald, which already had its own square.

The first New Year’s Eve in Times Square started with fireworks and a celebration of over 200,000 people. Times Square immediately became the center of New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York City. To further draw attention to the spectable, the owner of the New York Times instructed a group of electricians to construct a wooden and iron ball lit with light bulbs to drop from the top of their building at midnight. And so began the tradition of the “Ball Drop” at Times Square.

The tradition of the ball drop continued uninterrupted until 1942 – when the sobering reality of the second world war and security concerns – replaced the ball drop with a moment of silence at midnight. Since then, the tradition has continued, and new and more elaborate balls have emerged on top of the Times Building. The current Times Square Ball was put in place at the millennium celebration, and is made out of Waterford Crystal and an elaborate lighting display. It weighs1,070 pounds (490 kg) measures 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter and installed with 504 crystal triangles, illuminated externally with 168 halogen light bulbs and internally with 432 light bulbs of clear, red, blue, green and yellow colors.

Since this time, millions gather in New York City to attend the largest party on Earth in New York City, centering on Times Square. And across the country – and the world – people watch on television to see New York City and the United States welcome in the New Year. Times Square and its iconic reputation was built on its reputation from that very first New Year’s Eve celebration. And look at what it has become since then – the center of theater, news media, and advertising for the world. All thanks to creative genius of New Yorkers, and their love of a good party.

New York City is so crowded on New Year’s Eve now that an entire industry has grown up around preparing for, promoting, and celebrating New Year’s Eve in New York City. Promotional companies have turned every night club, bar, and restaurant into a venue on this night to contain all of the people who flock to Manhattan to be part of the electric atmosphere that emanates from the World’s most famous New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.

Next week in the nightlife corner, we will provide valuable tips on how you can enjoy New York City on New Year’s Eve. Whether you are young and like to party, or a bit more sophisticated in your nightlife entertainment, or traveling with your family, there is an option for everyone in New York City on New Year’s Eve. The secret is to understand the logistical challenges you might not anticipate, and most importantly, choosing the appropriate venue to take in the New Year in New York City.

By Sam Cook.

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Filed under History, NYC Culture, Travel, Walking Tours

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