Happy, Happy New Year to all! May 2012 be better than you possibly dreamed of! This year’s Times Square ball is for the Year of Friendship, so what better thing to share with all of my friends around the world. The ball is twice the size of prior ones, weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals. It can produce more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns that create a kaleidoscope effect. The 32,256 Philips Luxeon LEDs (light emitting diodes) are three times the number used last year, however, the new ball is 10%-20% more energy efficient than the 2008 one and 78% more efficient than the 2007 one. It consumes the same amount of energy per hour as two household ovens.
One of the new Waterford crystals, featuring this year’s Let There Be Friendship design. The crystals, designed and crafted by Waterford artisans, feature a pattern that represents friends holding hands around the world.
Workers attaching the crystals to the ball.
And now for a little history:
New Year’s Eve was celebrated in Times Square as early as 1904. In 1907 the New Year’s Eve Ball made its maiden voyage down the flagpole atop One Times Square. This first Ball, made of iron and wood and decorated with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds.
As part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in eateries surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats emblazoned with the numbers “1908” fashioned of tiny light bulbs. At the stroke of midnight, they all “flipped their lids” and the year on their foreheads lit up simultaneously with the numbers “1908” on the parapet of the Times Tower.
The Ball has been lowered every year since, except for 1942 and 1943 when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime “dim-out” of lights in New York City. The crowds still gathered in Times Square and saw in the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower – a harkening back to earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to “ring out the old, ring in the new.”
In 1920, a wrought iron ball replaced the original. In 1955, this ball was replaced with an aluminum ball. This aluminum ball remained unchanged until 1981, when red light bulbs and a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the I Love New York marketing campaign. In 1989, the traditional white Ball with white light bulbs, sans green stem returned. In 1995, the Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, and computer controls.
The aluminum ball was retired for the 2000 millennium celebration, when a Crystal Ball was redesigned by Waterford Crystal – combining the latest in technology with the most traditional of materials, reminding us of our past as we gazed into the future. This is the 11th year that Waterford Crystal has designed the Ball.
New Year’s Eve Ball, 1978. Photo credit: The New York Times.