"Happy New Year in America"

New Year's Eve in the United States is party time. Usually, friends gather at a home that has a fairly large living room. A typical New Year's party is very well attended, there are a lot of people. Friends, relatives, co-workers, and classmates are invited. When the party is crowded, there isn't enough room to dance. People are all packed close to each other. The buzz of conversation is so loud, you can hardly hear what anybody is talking about. Party goers wear colorful paper hats, throw around confetti and streamers, and drink alcoholic beverages. Champagne, sometimes referred to as "The Bubbly", is the most frequently served beverage. If you're invited to one of these parties, it is a good idea to drink very slowly. You don't want to drink too much because you could get drunk, and that will make you happy in the moment, but very uncomfortable the next day. Watch out for the bubbly. It doesn't seem particularly alcoholic, not like gin or whisky. It has an innocent taste, a little bit like a lemon-lime soft drink. But its innocent taste is deceptive. It can really sneak up on you.

As the evening progresses to around eleven thirty, the crowd begins to get a little thinner. Some people are just too sleepy to stay at the party, and reluctantly say good-bye to the hosts and the guests. But for the people who can last longer, the host or hostess turns on the television set and everyone watches NBC or CBS broadcast from Times Square.

The "ball" at the top of the flagpole
Every year, at One Times Square in New York City, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, on December 31, a large, brightly lit ball is lowered 77 feet down a specially designed flagpole that is placed at the top of the building. The ball slowly descends. As it comes near the bottom of the flagpole, the crowd gathered at Times Square and the guests at all the parties by the TV sets begin to chant in unison a countdown: Five, Four, Three, Two, One. And when the ball is at its lowest point, a sign flashes on the building: whatever new year it is, 2013, or 2014 or later. Everyone cheers, "Happy New Year." Everyone then embraces the person nearest to them. Boyfriends kiss girlfriends. Wives kiss husbands. Strangers kiss strangers. There is a superstition behind these midnight kisses. It means you will not be lonely in the coming year.

On December 31, 1907, a ball signifying New Year's Day was first dropped at One Times Square, and the Square has held the main New Year's celebration in New York City ever since. On that night, hundreds of thousands of people congregated to watch the first Waterford Crystal ball being lowered marking the start of the new year. The dropping ball replaced a lavish fireworks display from the top of the building that was held from 1904 to 1906. City officials decided to end the fireworks celebration because of the danger of fire. A fire starting at the top of the building would be a very difficult one to put out. Beginning in 1908, and for more than eighty years thereafter, the lowering of the crystal ball was the main signal of the year's passing. Times Square sign maker Artkraft Strauss was responsible for the ball-lowering. Artkraft Strauss is a famous design firm. This company designed many of the signs that are exhibited at Times Square. Another famous sign by Artkraft Strauss was the huge Camel cigarette advertisement where smoke rings came out of the mouth of the smoker depicted on the sign.

During World War II, a minute of silence, followed by a recording of church bells ringing, replaced the ball drop because of wartime blackout restrictions. Today, Countdown Entertainment and One Times Square handle the New Year's Eve event in conjunction with the Times Square Alliance.

A new energy-efficient LED (light emitting diode) ball, celebrating the centennial of the ball drop, was first used for the arrival of the year 2008. The 2008/2009-ball, which was dropped on New Year's Eve Wednesday, December 31, 2008 for the arrival of 2009, is larger and has become a permanent installation as a year-round attraction. It is also used for celebrations such as Valentine's Day and Halloween. About one million people come to Times Square for the New Year's Eve celebrations.

However, for the millennium celebration on December 31, 1999, published reports stated that approximately two million people overflowed Times Square, filling up 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue and all the way back on Broadway and Seventh Avenues to 59th Street. It was the largest gathering in Times Square since August 1945 during celebrations to mark the end of World War Two. The celebration in Times Square is broadcast to a nation wide audience, so that no matter where you live in the States, you can experience the excitement of the New Year's countdown.
One of the most important parts of the Times Square New Year's celebrations for years was the sweet band music of Guy Lombardo and his orchestra. Guy Lombardo was born in Canada in 1902. He learned to play music because his father was a singer and wanted his four children to accompany him with musical instruments. In 1917, Guy Lombardo formed his famous band, The Royal Canadians.
Guy Lombardo is best known for almost a half-century of New Year's Eve broadcasts, first on radio, and then on television. Lombardo's orchestra played at the "Roosevelt Grill" in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959, and their New Year's Eve performances continued until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Broadcasts of the band's performances were a major part of New Year's celebrations across North America. Millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties.

The band's first New Year's Eve radio broadcast was in 1928. A few years later, they could be heard on the CBS Radio Network before 12 Midnight Eastern time, then on the NBC Radio Network after 12 Midnight. They always included in their program the traditional song, "Auld Lang Syne." "Auld Lang Syne" is a Scottish title from the poem written by Robert Burns. The phrase means "For the sake of old times."

On December 31, 1956, the Lombardo band did their first New Year's TV special on CBS. The program and Lombardo's 20 subsequent New Year's Eve TV shows included a live segment from Times Square showing the arrival of the New Year. During the early years, pioneer broadcast journalist Robert Trout reported from Times Square; in later years, another longtime newsman, Ben Grauer reported from Times Square.

CBS carried most of the Lombardo New Year's specials, but there were a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the celebration was broadcast live to individual TV stations instead of being broadcast on a network.

By the middle 1970's, the Lombardo TV show was facing competition, especially for younger viewers, from Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, but Lombardo remained popular among viewers, especially older ones.

Even after Lombardo's death, the band's New Year's specials continued for two more years on CBS. The Royal Canadians were famous for playing the traditional song Auld Lang Syne as part of the celebrations. Their recording of the song still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.
Parties usually continue after the host turns off the TV. Finally around two in the morning, most of the guests leave. Driving home after the party can be a problem because many people have had too much to drink. If you're driving, be very, very careful, and never drive if you're feeling the effects of alcohol.

2012 Rose Parade winning float
"Preserving Paradise"
New Year's Day is a time for resting from the previous evening's festivities. Also, there are two very entertaining parades to watch on TV. One is the famous "Tournament of Roses Parade" in Pasadena, California. The name is usually shortened to "Rose Parade". The parade has floats on wheels lavishly decorated with flowers. Each year, the Rose Parade has a different theme. In the 2012 Rose Parade, the theme was "Just Imagine". The winning float was entitled "Preserving Paradise", sponsored by Dole Fruits. The float featured exotic places in the world with jungles, elephants, and old style costumes from Cambodia. Also, the Rose Parade features marching bands from different colleges and high schools from the Los Angeles area but also from as far away as the Midwest. The Rose Parade is followed by a football game between two college teams that were winners of their Conferences. On January 1st, 2013, the Wisconsin Badgers will play against the Stanford Cardinals in the Rose Bowl.

Mummers String Band
On the East Coast, in Philadelphia, many people attend the Mummer's Parade or watch it on TV. The Mummer's Parade is considered the oldest folk festival in the United States. Local clubs called New Year's Associations spend months preparing their parading performances. The themes maybe clown groups or groups of Mummers spinning pure fantasies. There are string bands with banjo players and very stylish and outlandishly dressed costume groups. Huge puppets made of helium filled balloons march steadily up South Broad Street in Philadelphia, such as the giant sized dog Snoopy, a character in Charles Shultz's comic strip. The Mummers began in the middle of the 18th Century when diverse communities in Philadelphia brought together their traditions. The original Mummers from England were farm workers who entertained their land owner the day after Christmas, December 26th, with clown acts, music, and a short play in exchange for drinks, food, and gifts. In Philadelphia, this tradition was extended to New Year's Day and drew inspiration from other cultures such as the Swedish, German, and African people.

Many Americans make New Year's resolutions promising to lose weight, exercise more, learn a language, read more, or write a book. These New Year's resolutions are usually forgotten by the second week of January.

I hope this article helps you to understand a little bit about the American New Year's celebrations, and I hope you and your family have a very Happy New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

(Correction: I mistakenly put the helium filled balloon puppets in the Mummer's Parade. They are not in the Mummer's New Year Parade, but the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade held in New York City on Thanksgiving Day.)

1. The Rose Parade takes place in _____________________ on New Year's Day.
a: New York
b: Philadelphia
c: Pasadena
d: Wisconsin

2. The Bubbly can sneak up on you means "________________ ."
a: you can get drunk on champagne before you are aware of it
b: people at parties fill your glass when you're not looking
c: champagne is actually a non alcoholic beverage
d: It's okay to drive after drinking several glasses of champagne

3. On New Year's Eve, people who live in New York often ___________________.
a: go to the Mummer's Parade
b: go to the Rose Parade
c: go to Times Square to watch the descending brightly lit ball and chant a countdown
d: watch college football

4. ______________ was a famous band leader who led his orchestra every New Year's Eve for many years.
a: Robert Trout
b: Ben Grauer
c: Dick Clark
d: Guy Lombardo

5. Kissing your boyfriend at midnight, New Year's Eve, is supposed to ________________
a: give you good luck in coming year
b: insure that you won't be lonely in the coming year
c: help you to keep your New Year's resolutions
d: help your team win the Rose Bowl

6. Confetti is small bits of colored paper. Streamers are __________________ .
a: long strings of colored paper
b: like rivers only smaller
c: flashing lights on the television
d: people running very fast at a party and laughing loudly

7. The largest New Year's celebration in Times Square was held when ___________________ became _____________ .
a: 1904 ... 1905
b: 1999 ... 2000
c: the end of World War II
d: 2008 ... 2009

8. If on New Year's Day, I promise to myself I will learn how to cook professionally, that is an example of __________________ .
a: a great idea
b: a foolish plan
c: a New Year's resolution
d: a noble ambition

9. In the 18th Century, farm workers who entertained land owners on December 26th were called "_____________."
a: Philadelphians
b: Fantasy Spinners
c: Banjo Players
d: Mummers

10. The Scottish song title "Auld Lang Syne" means "_______________ ."
a: The Ball Has Descended
b: For the Sake of Old Times
c: I Have to Go Home Now
d: Don't Drink and Drive

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, "Auld Lang Syne":

"Auld Lang Syne" with lyrics:

Also see:
Decian Galbraith singing "Auld Lang Syne" with the written lyrics.

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