New Year’s Day and the New York Times

Times_SquarePat here:

 Were you one of the billion people to stay up New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop over Times Square? Do you know who started this idiocy? The New York Times, that’s who.

At the turn of the 20th century, the NYT bought property in what was then called Long Acre Square (after London’s carriage district). Originally, the square was a large open horse market with dreary tenements surrounding it. But once electricity and public transit were installed, the area became a hot market. In 1903, the New York Times started building the second largest tower in the city at the time. Once it was complete, it apparently took very little arm twisting for the newspaper to persuade the city to rename the square after itself, and Times Square came into existence. In celebration, in 1904, the Times threw a huge block party on New Year’s Eve, well, huge for back then, anyway. The theater district consisted of maybe one theater, but they celebrated with music and fireworks every New Year’s Eve—until the city banned fireworks in 1907. In their place, an engineer built a 700 lb wood and iron ball illuminated by a hundred lights to drop from a flagpTimes Square Ball Drop by Michelleyyy is licensed under CC BY 2.0ole at midnight. And the tradition began!

Within a decade, the Times outgrew its skyscraper. That towering, skinny NYT office building offered prime real estate for advertising, especially for the theaters crowding into the area. A giant news ticker went up in 1928, and ultimately, the huge sides of the building started the trend of Times Square flashing advertisements. Today the building is mostly empty but the party and the crystal ball drop have become world famous. Nothing like a good party for creating a tourist attraction!

Did you watch the ball drop? If not, how did you celebrate the new year?

Image: Bernt Rostad from Oslo, Norway

Happy New Year!

XmasChampagneChristina here. Today is New Year’s Eve and we should all be having a party – champagne, canapés, a huge gathering of friends and lots of fun, music, dancing and laughter. Obviously, that won’t be the case this time and I’m guessing low-key celebrations will be the order of the day instead. Personally, I don’t mind. I’ve never really liked all the hype around this one day – the older I get, the faster it seems to come around and I’d rather not think about how it signifies the rapid passing of time! I just want to spend the evening with my family, perhaps eating and drinking something special, and quietly welcoming the new year.

In Sweden, people say “Gott Slut” to each other until midnight, when this changes to “Gott Nytt År”. “Gott Slut” basically means “Happy Ending”, which has always sounded a bit morbid to me, but it is meant to be taken in a good way, wishing friends and family a happy evening and end of the old year before the new one arrives. I don’t know if any other countries have similar greetings? If you’ve heard of any, please let me know!

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas

Stencil.default (2)Nicola here. It’s New Year’s Eve here in the UK, with fireworks, celebrations and all the traditions that go with the ending of one year and the start of the new. One of my favourite new year'e eve traditions was celebrated by my grandmother for many years – She would open the windows at the front and back of the house to invite good luck in and the front and let bad luck out at the back! However this might just have had the practical intention of airing the house after all the smells of Christmas cooking!

It may be the end of December, but in an older tradition it’s only the seventh day of the “twelvetide,” the 12 days of Christmas that started on 25th December and end with Twelfth Night on 5th January. In the medieval calendar there was still a lot of festive celebration to go!

In the carol, on the 7th day of Christmas my true love sent to me seven swans a swimming. In the old 7 swansCeltic tradition the seven swans were linked to the seven known planets, elegance and mystery personified. In the 17th century, when the carol originated, swans were seen as good omens, tasty to eat and a source of warmth from the feathers and down. The Christian interpretation of the song was that the seven swans symbolise the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Stencil.default (3)There’s a rather nice idea here the binds the 12 days of Christmas to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. We all have different gifts and qualities. For example, some are good teachers, others can encourage and motivate people and some people are creative. In the New Year, whether or not we make specific resolutions, we can all plan to use and enjoy our own unique gifts.

A very happy New Year’s Eve! Do you have any special traditions you enjoy at this time of year or resolutions you are intent on making?