On New Year's Eve
people gather in Times Square to watch the ball drop,
while others watch the excitement from the warmth of their own homes.
I was curious about when New Year's Eve celebrations
like the ball drop started,
and didn't have to search very far until I found
an interesting article by Ellen Rolfes at PBS.org.
(To see the full article, move your cursor over PBS above and click.)
The reason for the ball drop is really fascinating--and unexpected.
According to Rolfes,
the ball drop tradition in New York
borrows from something called a "time ball,"
which began in 1829 in Portsmouth, England.
The mariners' time ball allowed sailors to set their chronometers
by looking through a telescope
to see a ball dropping at noon everyday.
The Greenwich Time Ball:
The US Naval Observatory soon picked up on the idea for the US coastline.
So in 1908, the owner of the New York Times
decided to employ a similar dropping ball
to mark the passage from the old to the new year,
replacing the unsafe tradition of setting off fireworks.
In the grand scheme of nature,
there really is no such thing as a new year
between December 31st and January 1st.
The earth merely finishes another turn on its axis.
But when you think about it,
that's a pretty good reason to celebrate.