Most modern cultures celebrate the New Year in one way or another. The celebrations may occur on different days, but it always symbolizes a new beginning, turning over a new leaf. In America each of us has our own personal traditions to mark the moment, but three traditions stand out as universal, the Times Square ball drop, singing Auld Lang Syne, and making resolutions.
Why dropping a ball? The tradition of dropping a ball to mark time is actually nautical and can be traced back to 1833 and Britain's royal observatory. A large ball would be dropped every day at one p.m. It was visible to all of the ships in the harbor. The captains would watch carefully and synchronize their clocks at that precise moment. Back in America, in 1904 the New York Times moved to it's new headquarters in Times Square and decided to throw a big, year end, party with parades and fireworks. It grew every year but unfortunately, in 1907, the use of fireworks was outlawed in New York. As a new celebration finale dropping the time ball was adopted, and so the tradition began.
When I was a kid I used to roll my eyes every time my parents got a little misty at Guy Lombardo's rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Now, I miss ol' Guy. The title of the song expresses it best. The loose translation of the title is "times gone by." It is sung in almost every English speaking country in the world to ring in the New Year. Scottish poet Robert Burns is credited with taking an earlier song and tweaking it to produce the modern rendition. And according to a letter from Mr. Burns to the British Museum, he transcribed the words directly, from a man singing it.
Let's talk resolutions. We've been making and breaking them throughout history. The ancient Babylonians' most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment, and the Romans forgave debts. That is one resolution I think we really need to return to, especially these days. The most popular resolutions made today are to quit smoking or lose weight. We have the hope that waiting for us on the other side of midnight is the resolve to make these dreams come true. We try and more often than not fail, but at least we try and we hope. This day is nothing without hope.