Why We ‘Ring’ in the New Year

Posted on: December 31st, 2014 at 5:38 am by
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Four parts copper to one part tin. Those are the preferred bells. Their sound reverberates the longest and loudest.  This is gonna get real spiritual in a second so brace yourselves.

For thousands of years going back to ancient Egypt, the passing of a loved one was marked by the tolling of bells to ward off evil spirits and alert the gates of heaven to open. Like death itself, the year is gone and for this the bells toll.

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This image has been archived or removed.

A new dawn, a new day and “all that evil in the old year… resolved.” New beginnings at the stroke [of a bell] of midnight.

Symbolism overload, whereas ball-drops are quite obviously a countdown.

Specifically in New York City a ball was placed atop the Western Union Building in 1877.  At noon the ball would descend visibly to those in the Financial District, but more importantly, to the ships in the harbor. By 1883, that ball drop was considered standard time. People reset their watches and ships, their chronometers.

From telegraph-history.org:

The ball dropped precisely at noon triggered via telegraph by a operator at the National Observatory in Washington. Western Union’s ten story building at that time was the tallest building in New York (and in the U.S.). People could view the ball dropping from several miles around. This system, including the ball and discharging apparatus, was designed and built by George Phelps. The initial time reference used to start “Standard Railway Time” in the U.S. began with the dropping of Western Union’s Time Ball in 1883. The Time Ball would remain in use until 1912 when its view was beginning to be obstructed by New York’s growing sky line.

This image has been archived or removed.
This image has been archived or removed.
This image has been archived or removed.

New York City adopted ball-dropping for New Year’s Eve in 1907. The history of that tradition is everywhere, but the short version is that New York Times owner Adolph Olchs used the gimmick to help celebrate its then-new headquarters. If you can hear past the roar of revelers, those bells will still be ringing in every church.

Throughout America, people drop all sorts of of things to signify the countdown to the new year. For instance, in Atlanta they drop a peach.

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By the way, the Times Square Ball stays up there all year ’round. Look for it sitting patiently at the bottom of the top of 1 Times Square long after the celebration ends. A subtle reminder that despite the months gone by we were blessed with a new beginning.

What are you going to do with yours this year?

Oy, there’s that whole resolution thing, but enough symbolism for one piece.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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