Select Text Level:

On December 31, 1904, New Yorkers first celebrated New Year’s Eve in Times Square. About 200,000 people showed up for that first celebration. Today, more than a million people—mostly tourists—crowd the busy plaza every December 31.  
 
The first Times Square celebrations were marked with fireworks displays. Safety concerns ended that tradition in 1907. That year, the New York Times, which originally sponsored the celebrations, began dropping a “time ball” signifying the new year. Time balls are an ancient signaling device used by mariners. A worker at a facility on land would drop a large metal ball perched atop a tall building at a specific time, allowing sailors to set their chronometers at sea. Time can be used to determine longitude, so time balls not only told sailors the time, they also allowed mariners to know their position and navigate successfully.  
 
The first Times Square time ball was made of wood, metal, and lit with incandescent light bulbs. Today, the ball is made of metal, crystal, and lit by LEDs.
ancient
Adjective

very old.

celebrate
Verb

to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

chronometer
Noun

timepiece designed to be accurate in extreme conditions of wind, water, and pressure.

crystal
Noun

type of glass in which a material (traditionally, lead oxide) is added to improve the glass' appearance. Also called lead crystal or crystal glass.

determine
Verb

to decide.

device
Noun

tool or piece of machinery.

facility
Noun

a building or room that serves a specific function.

fireworks
Plural Noun

controlled explosive devices that produce a striking display of light and loud noise, used for signaling or as part of a celebration.

incandescent
Adjective

a type of electric light in which light is produced by a filament heated by electric current.

LED
Noun

(light emitting diode) device (semiconductor) that emits light when an electric current passes through it.

Noun

distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

mariner
Noun

sailor.

metal
Noun

category of elements that are usually solid and shiny at room temperature.

navigate
Verb

to plan and direct the course of a journey.

perch
Verb

to sit or rest on a tree branch or other elevated position.

plaza
Noun

urban public square or open space.

signal
Verb

to communicate using signs.

signify
Verb

to signal or represent.

sponsor
Verb

to support and finance.

time ball
Noun

ancient device made of a large ball dropped from support on a tall building at a predetermined time, signaling the time for ships at sea.

tourist
Noun

person who travels for pleasure.

tradition
Noun

beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.

More Dates in History

December
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
25 26 27 28 29 30 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31 1 2 3 4 5