New Year’s Eve Day - December 31, 2013
So what is it about throwing several tons of tiny bits of paper out of high-rise windows that so traditionally marks the beginning of the New Year—year after year? And dropping a crystal ball from way up there while a squealing crowd cheers loudly as they watch it plummet? Turns out it’s strictly an American tradition—who knew? Other countries use fireworks on this momentous night. (Oh, what would we do without Google?)
It seems, back in the day, maritime time-balls were used to help passing ships needing to adjust their chronometers (time-pieces). Using telescopes, they’d peer into the harbor and watch for the time ball to fall at a particular time, usually noon. Hmmm. So maybe they hung around out there waiting, close enough to see—maybe fished a little, soaked up some sun on deck until the ball dropped? Oh right! We were talking about New Year’s Eve traditions.
So after a particularly disastrous fireworks display in 1904, that spilled hot ashes onto the spectators, the NYPD banned fireworks. The then-owner and publisher of New York Times, Adolph Ochs commissioned a sign company to create the first 700-lb. ball made of wood and iron. It had 100 light-bulbs on it and at midnight, that New Year’s Eve in 1908, the ball was eased down by pulleys on the mast of the USS New Mexico. The time-ball has since been redesigned a number of times, and the drop locations changed as well, but it seems there is actually some logic in the tradition—it really does mark the time, the changeover from one year to the next.
Now the confetti? It never seemed very logical to me to dump a ton of tiny bits of paper onto streets teeming with gazillions of spectators, but that’s what is done, every year. Wonder who sweeps it all up? Yikes? Need a job?
Anyway, turns out that there’s actually some logic in that tradition too. There’s actually a place in NYC where you can write little messages (hopefully well-wishes) on tiny pieces of paper that are collected all year long. Then on New Year’s Eve, those tiny bits of paper are dumped on the heads of all those waiting spectators.
I wonder… do folks grab as many as they can, stuff them in their pockets to read at leisure when they get home? What happens if it’s raining, does the paper disintegrate into sticky lumps of goo that land in people’s hair, or slither down coldly down their necks? [shiver]
Well, then there are the millions who sit at home, watching the events on their computers or TV’s. They are dressed to the hilt in their schlumpadink jammies and two pairs of mismatched wooly-socks. They sit snug in their recliners, a fresh mug of hot chocolate in hand, and a marshmallow mustache to show for it. Now that’s my kind of spectator!
MouseHouse will be celebrating too. The triplets will nap this afternoon so they can stay awake till midnight. Mama Fivelina will bake dried-apple fritters and make popped corn on Walnut Woodstove. Betina’s fiancé, Bret, and his parents are invited for an evening of games and revelry. And when the time-piece—someone’s cast off watch that Sir Fivel cleverly refurbished—clicks to 12:00 a.m., they will all hug and dance around, clanging spoons and spatulas, or Fivelina’s cooking lids, singing Auld Lang Sang in squeak-mode.
And then it will be 2014. Happy New Year a few hours early, dear friends. May the confetti of yesteryear be swept away, and only happy memories tucked into your keepsake box.