By Gina Olson
New Year’s in the United States typically makes people think about their resolutions for the next year, festivities, and the ball drop in Times Square. Since the first appearance of the iconic ball in 1907, and earlier, each year has brought something new.
Some years stand out more than others, but each year has something particularly memorable. Words, in particular, allow us to remember certain years. The Global Language Monitor provides a list of popular words from the past years. According to the Monitor (though ranks may vary from website to website), the heart emoji was the most commonly used word of 2014, followed by the former pound sign aka the #hashtag. A few years earlier, in 2009, Twitter, Obama, and H1N1 were common. In 2005 and 2001, both Katrina and Ground Zero clearly marked the life changing events during those years.
Besides our quickly changing vocabularies, the ball used in the ball drop has also changed many times. The balls used have been composed of wood, iron, aluminum, and LED lights. Weights have varied, too, from 1920’s 400 pound wrought iron ball, to the much lighter aluminum ball used in 1955. According to the Times Square Official Website, “Time Balls” first became useful in Greenwich over England’s Royal Observatory. Back in 1833, the ball dropped at one o’clock in the afternoon to provide local ship captains with some helpful information for setting navigational equipment. Now, the ball signals a positive entry into a new year.
And, even if we want to forget the frightening or embarrassing years, it is interesting to reflect on them. As the year 1999 became 2000, a Y2K scare bothered many Americans. People gathered extra food supplies, depleting the shelves of many stores.
“I’m waiting for disaster. Do I have cases of food! … Cases of rice, containers of water, canned ham and vegetables. I am going to live better with or without Y2K,” said Jay Wishner, an internet consultant, in 1999, as reported by the New York Daily News.
Americans made preparations for potential dangers as the Millennium approached. Many computers had programming which recorded dates by the last two digits. So, instead of 2000, people feared that the incorrect 1900 date on their computers would create a computer disaster, according to Time. No disaster occurred, and life continued.
Whether you consider the New Year as just another day, a time to celebrate and make resolutions, or an interesting sliver of history, it is a day of change, and all of these. 2015 will continue this tradition.