Have You Ever Wondered Why We Drop a Giant Ball on New Year’s Eve?

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If an alien were to land on Earth tomorrow and asked you to explain our New Year’s Eve customs, would you be able to tell them why we all gather around a giant, shiny ball and watch it drop? Probably not. To us, it just doesn’t make any obvious sense.

But there is actually an interesting reason behind this tradition. It dates back several hundred years, and once you learn how it started, the whole Times Square New Year’s celebration is going to make a whole lot more sense.

And it was then, over a hundred years ago, that the modern tradition came to be. However, the time ball dropped in New York was far from the first dropped in history…

Most cities kept their own time and, honestly, people didn’t really care how accurate it was.

Famous clockmaker John Harrison developed a super accurate chronometer in 1761. This invention would do wonders for people at sea helping them to track time and navigate more successfully.

That wasn’t ideal, so they had to develop a way to help ships’ captains remain on the same clock. And that’s why the time ball was invented.

It was a large ball in the harbor that would indicate the exact time. It was big enough that sailors could see it through their telescopes and set their chronometers to the exact time. And thus began the tradition of the time ball…

And it was a hit! It worked so well that they set up several other time balls in the area, and the practice began to make its way across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States.

In 1877, Western Union began dropping a ball in its Manhattan headquarters, and the time ball tradition had finally reached New York.

Why? Well, simply put, the person throwing the party (Adolph Ochs, publisher of The New York Times) couldn’t get a permit for fireworks. A giant, glowing time ball was the next best thing.

It has dropped every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943 (World War II was a b****), and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

True time balls mark time by starting to move, not by stopping like the Times Square ball does. But it’s way more fun to count down to the new year that way, so we’ll forgive it. So there you have it! Happy New Year! Now go impress all your friends at the New Year’s party with your newfound knowledge.