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
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.
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.
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
Mummers String Band
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.
2. The Bubbly can sneak up on you means "________________ ."
3. On New Year's Eve, people who live in New York often ___________________.
4. ______________ was a famous band leader who led his orchestra every New Year's Eve for many years.
5. Kissing your boyfriend at midnight, New Year's Eve, is supposed to ________________
6. Confetti is small bits of colored paper. Streamers are __________________ .
7. The largest New Year's celebration in Times Square was held when ___________________ became _____________ .
8. If on New Year's Day, I promise to myself I will learn how to cook professionally, that is an example of __________________ .
9. In the 18th Century, farm workers who entertained land owners on December 26th were called "_____________."
10. The Scottish song title "Auld Lang Syne" means "_______________ ."
Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, "Auld Lang Syne":
"Auld Lang Syne" with lyrics:
Decian Galbraith singing "Auld Lang Syne" with the written lyrics.