Whether you’re popping champagne, watching fireworks, smooching a sweetheart or joining in a lively rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight, many New Year’s traditions have roots that date back literally thousands of years, yet remain mainstays in today’s festivities.
Watching the ball drop
According to PBS.org, the ball drop tradition hails from when sailors used “time balls” chronometers at sea to serve as timepieces.
In 1907, The New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs was hoping to find a replacement for celebratory fireworks that had been banned by the police. Ochs asked his chief electrician to conceive of a sparkly alternative, thus creating the infamous Times Square ball.
According to the Time Square Alliance, the current ball weighs 6 tons and is 12 feet in diameter. Its shine comes from the 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and over 30,000 LED lights on its surface.
Kissing at midnight
The custom of kissing on New Year hails from English tradition of “saining,” or bestowing a blessing of protection. Kissing, in this context, is thought to bring good luck as people enter the more tumultuous, transitional period of the new year. It also is thought to bring good luck and ward off a year of loneliness.
‘Cheers’ with champagne
While the history of champagne is long and crosses the borders of many countries, it’s widely believed that drinking bubbly wine specifically on New Year’s Eve could have begun as early as the reign of Julius Caesar. However, the tradition of greeting the new year with a midnight toast wasn’t documented until the 1800s after the technology to bottle carbonated wine had been invented and the beverage was marketed as the drink of special occasions.
Singing “Auld Lang Syne”
Another age-old tradition is to sing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight. The poem was recorded by the Scottish-born Robert Burns on paper in 1788 to the tune of an old folk song.
In English, the literal translation of Auld Lang Syne is “old long times,” but can also be translated to “once upon a time.”
The song became a mainstay at funerals and farewell celebrations in Britain and Scotland before becoming a New Year’s tradition. In 1929, Guy Lombardo’s orchestra played it at a hotel in New York and the rest is history.
Whether you kiss, toast or sing on New Year’s Eve, there are a few tips you should remember.
Make reservations early. When it comes to making your dinner or party reservations for New Year’s, don’t risk waiting until the last minute. Make all reservations as early as possible to make sure you, or your guests, aren’t scrambling at the last minute to make a new plan. Call ahead to your favorite restaurant, even if you’re planning on just a cozy table for two.
Destinate a driver. New Year’s Eve can be one of the deadliest nights of the year when it comes to car accidents caused by inebriated drivers. If you’re heading out and planning to imbibe, utilize a taxi service or schedule a ride using Uber, Lyft, or another accredited ride service. Another option is to appoint a trusted friend as a designated driver.
Celebrate now and later. While ringing in the new year at midnight is custom, it isn’t always possible with busy schedules and the possibility of next-day plans. Try moving the festivities to the morning and celebrate the new year with a brunch or midday outing.
For younger kids who get sleepy before the ball drops, plan an earlier celebration at home or out on the town.
Consider heading out early to a kid-friendly venue where kids and adults can enjoy some active fun – bowling, bouncing, climbing and such – before settling the kids down for the night [with a trusted sitter, of course] and heading out for your adult party or date night.