Millions of people gather at locations all over the globe on New Year's Eve each year to reflect on the year gone by and greet the new year to come. If you've ever stayed up until midnight to greet the new year, then there's one tradition you've probably enjoyed: watching the New Year's Eve Ball drop in Times Square.
Times Square in New York City is obviously a favorite place enjoyed by over one million people each year on New Year's Eve, but exactly how did this tradition of dropping a giant luminous ball to greet the new year get started? And what exactly is the ball made of?
New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square date back to December 31, 1904, when Adolph Ochs, the owner of The New York Times, decided to celebrate the opening of the newspaper's new headquarters at One Times Square with a fireworks show. After a few years of fireworks shows, Ochs decided he wanted an even bigger spectacle to highlight the New Year's Eve celebration.
Ochs chose sign-making company Artkraft Strauss to build a time ball for future celebrations. The first New Year's Eve Ball, which debuted on December 31, 1907, was made of iron and wood and weighed 700 pounds. It was lit with 100 light bulbs and measured five feet in diameter.
Little did Ochs know what a tradition the ball drop would become. Since 1907, the New Year's Eve Ball, also known as the Times Square Ball, has dropped at midnight on New Year's Eve every year except 1942 and 1943, when blackouts due to World War II canceled the festivities.
The ball slowly slides 141 feet down a flagpole over the course of 60 seconds beginning at 11:59pm. When it reaches the bottom at exactly midnight, a large sign lights up indicating the start of a new year.
The New Year's Eve Ball has been through several different modifications over the years. A new ball made of wrought iron replaced the original ball in 1920. Then, in 1955, the aging iron ball was replaced by a ball made of aluminum.
The aluminum ball remained unchanged until 1981, when red light bulbs and a green stem converted it into an apple in conjunction with the "I Love New York" marketing campaign. The apple lasted for seven years before it was replaced in 1988 with a more traditional white ball with white lights.
Today's New Year's Eve Ball has been around since 2007, when it was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting. Its aluminum skeleton is covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and lit from within by 32,256 Philips Luxeon LED lights. The redesigned ball is 12 feet wide and weighs over 11,000 pounds!