Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year! A Countdown to Hope

Happy New Year! It’s been a rough twelve months, hasn’t it? My joy at having Paper, Scissors, Death published to glowing reviews has been mediated by the continuing bad news about our global economy, our environment, plus the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Gaza.

When my husband suggested we take our son and his girlfriend and spend New Year’s in New York City, I thought it’d be the perfect diversion. Plus, I could strike another item off my personal “bucket list.”

Folks have been celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square (named for the New York Times newspaper) since 1904. Then a city-wide ban on fireworks heralded the need for a new tradition. So NYC decided to drop a “time ball.” The first ball fell in 1907 from a flagpole, and the ceremony has been repeated every year except when wartime forced a “dim-out” in 1943 and 1944.

For security reasons, the NYPD begins to cordon off the blocks around Times Square at 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve day. Hour by hour, the police keep extending the barricade, as bomb sniffing dogs patrol the area. No backpacks or liquor are allowed inside the cordoned space. We arrived in New York City at 3 p.m. the afternoon of December 31, and our taxi had to drop us off three blocks from our hotel. The crowds were already forming in front of Times Square, but we didn’t join them standing out in the cold. My husband had done his research. He had learned that by getting reservations to Carolines Comedy Club on Broadway, we could stay inside until the countdown and then step out onto the street and watch the ball drop.

At 11:58, we walked outside and faced Times Square.

At 11:59, the ball began its descent. This year a new ball was unveiled. It’s a 12-foot geodesic sphere (double the size of previous balls) weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals.

You can watch a great video of this year's ball drop at

But what I can’t share with you is the raw emotion the ceremony evokes. As I shouted out, “Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…five…four…three…two…one!” my spirit took flight. My voice was just one. But I was one of many. Around me were all sorts of accents, all sorts of faces, and each of us wore the same expression, I’m sure. A look of hope. I stood there teary-eyed, hugging my son, his girlfriend and my husband. I saw strangers doing the same—grabbing those they loved and embracing. People clapped each other on the back and yelled, “Happy New Year!” And for those brief minutes, standing there in the cold on a crowded street in New York, I thought to myself, “It’s going to be okay. It really is.”

How did you spend your New Year’s?


G.M. Malliet said...

On Maryland's Eastern Shore, they drop a crab, which I think is hilarious. Kudos to whoever thought of it.

Kudos to you, too, for a great post. I've never gone to Times Square for New Year's but now I feel I've been there.

Anonymous said...

What's a bucket list? A wish list?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. (There's a movie by this name on this theme.)

As for dropping crab...What a thought! Very interesting!