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New Year's Eve

One million people will pack New York's Times Square in one of the world's biggest and most famous New Year's Eve celebrations. But how did the massive street party get started, and how has it evolved over the years?

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Times Square on New Year's Eve. Photo Credit: Anthony Quintano.

 The famous ball drop in Times Square in New York City is surely the most iconic New Year's Eve Celebration of them all. But is it really as much fun as it appears to be on television?

Who hasn’t watched the famous ball drop in New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve and not said, “Someday I want to do that!”?

Well, my chance came when I was living in New York in the mid-1980s, when the Big Apple's crime wave was at its peak, and I’ll tell you: it’s more fun watching it on television than it is being there in person!

The subway trains heading into Manhattan were packed, as were the streets after I exited the nearest subway station allowing access to Times Square.

Several blocks around Times Square had been blocked to traffic, and everyone was heading in the same direction. I think if I hadn’t moved my feet the crowd could have carried me all the way to my destination.

Police Cordon

At some point, there was a police cordon, and burly members of the New York Police Department were warning revelers to turn around and find another place to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

“We cannot guarantee your safety,” we were warned. “If you go beyond this point, you are on your own. No one will be able to help you.”

Those warnings only seemed to increase the excitement for many in the crowd, which continued to push forward. I didn’t see anyone take their advice.

Once inside the square, I noticed that 99% of the people packed cheek and jowl were in a celebratory mood. But there was that 1% that appeared to be itching for a fight.

They were aggressively pushing and shoving their ways about, seemingly hoping that someone would take the bait and a free-for-all would ensue.

Race Riot in San Francisco

I thought back to the time my best friend and I celebrated New Year’s Eve in San Francisco several years earlier, and a race riot broke out.

Somebody broke a storefront window, and when the bell started ringing, thugs just started beating people up without provocation. It was a harrowing experience.

The crowd in Times Square was only getting thicker, and as the midnight hour approached, I could hardly breathe.

“I think I’d rather watch this on television,” I thought, and started trying to ease my way out of the throng.

I exited the blocked off area at about 20 minutes to midnight. A policeman looked at me and said, “Smart move!”

I got on a half empty subway train. I can’t remember where I was headed. Some of the passengers were drunk. Others were half asleep.

At the stroke of midnight, an elderly window blew into her horn and said to no one in particular, “Happy New Year!”

History of New Year’s Eve in Times Squrare

Nothing can quite match the excitement of New Year’s Eve in Times Square. But how did it all get started?

Check out this informative infographic on the first ball drop in 1904, and how the tradition has evolved over the years.

History of New Years Eve in Times Square, New York City

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