New Year's Eve traditions worth remembering

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, December 31, 2002

By By James Crawford
News Editor
On New Year's Eve, thousands of people will gather in person and tens of thousands more will get comfortable in their chairs at home in front of the TV to watch the giant light ball drop from the top of One Times Square in Manhattan and everyone, from young to old, whether they can sing or not, will at least try to follow along to the New Year's Eve tunes.
But have you ever wondered where these traditions came from and why still follow them today?
The significance of the ball dropping means the transition from the current year to the next year is official and a feeling of melancholy peacefulness generally permeates the air as we close one year's chapter and open another.
But the dropping of the ball, seemingly an entertainment venue alone, was once a very essential part of daily life when the marking of a day's passing was a matter of life or death.
According to several online sources, the concept of the ball lowering down a shaft began with a captain in the British Royal Navy Academy who came up with the idea of lowering a ball down a shaft to mark the time of day.
The concept was widely adapted until better methods of keeping time came along. As with many old habits, this one was hard to keep down and the ball was brought back as a means of celebrating the coming of a new year.
The first time the ball was lowered in Times Square was on Dec. 31, 1907 by the New York Times as a part of its celebration of the coming of the New Year. It has since came to be the symbol nationwide of the start of the first day of a new year, a change to do things better and begin anew.
Since it began, the ball has failed to drop only twice, in 1942 and 1943, due to World War II when it was deemed inappropriate and was replaced with a moment of silence followed by chimes to mark the passing of the year and in remembrance to the men fighting in Europe. We now view the lowering of the ball as a symbol of marking our own memories and events that define our lives.
And who could forget perhaps the most famous of all the new year ballads, Auld Lang Syne, written in the late 1700's by Scotland's Robert Burns, and loosely translated means "old good times."
Every year at the dawning of Jan. 1, family and friends gather round and stumble through the words of a song that is a eulogy to childhood and those moments in time that hold a special place in our heart.
I leave you now with the lyrics to this wonderful song of past times gone by, translated into more modern English, and remind you to take a moment to look back on the last year and be grateful for all those moments with those that are dear to you. Have a safe and memorable Happy New Year!
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne.
We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we've wandered many a weary foot
For auld lang syne.
We two have waded in the stream
From morning sun till dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne.
And here's a hand, my trusty friend,
And give me a hand of thine,
And we'll take a drink of ale
For auld lang syne!
And surely you will pay for yours,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
James Crawford is News Editor of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached by phone at 368-2123 or by e-mail at

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