5 things you might not know about the New Year's Eve ball drop

ByLA Blake WPVI logo
Friday, December 13, 2019
New Year's Eve ball drop fun facts
Here's the history of the ball drop and other fun facts.

More than a million people are expected to pack into New York's Times Square to ring in 2020 by watching the ball drop, and millions more will watch on television.

Brush up on your ball-dropping trivia with these fun facts.

Why do we even drop a ball?

AP file photo of Greenwich's time-ball seen in the far left.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The concept of dropping a ball to mark time dates back to the mid-1800s in England. One of the earliest time-balls was the one atop the Flamsteed House of the Greenwich Observatory along the River Thames. Starting in 1833, it was lowered every day at exactly 1 p.m. to signal the time to sailors and Londoners who could not afford clocks and watches.

The Times Square ball has been dropping since 1907

In this view looking north from the New York Times building in New York, a crowd estimated at 500,000 gathers to usher in the new year, Dec. 31, 1940.
AP Photo/John Lindsay

The drop was added to pre-existing festivities in the area and has heralded in every year since, with the exception of 1942 and 1943, according to timessquarenyc.org.

The ball in Times Square has had a lot of makeovers

The Waterford crystal ball is shown atop One Times Square during a media opportunity, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in New York.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The 2016 Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year's Eve Ball was built around the theme of the "Gift of Wonder." The 12-foot ball is covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and was thought to be the largest crystal ball in the world. While the ball drop is now timed electronically using an atomic clock out of Colorado, for the first 87 years, the ball was lowered by hand.

Wishes fall from the sky

In a tradition started last year, "wish-fetti" will be released when the ball drops. People from around the world submitted their wishes for 2020 online (or in person in Times Square), and those pieces of paper will make up the confetti that fills the sky as the clock strikes midnight.

Ball drops around the country range from cute to bizarre

Other events around the country feature various items being dropped (or slowly lowered). North Carolina drops everything from acorns to possums. Pennsylvania's drops include a giant Peep and bologna. And Key West, Florida, drops a drag queen in an oversized shoe. Whatever you want to drop, chances are you can find someone to drop it with you.

You can watch the ball drop on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC, starting at 8 p.m. ET/PT Dec. 31 on ABC.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC and this station.

This story was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.