New Year’s traditions grow, change

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Each year, millions of people across America ring in the New Year with a kiss and an off-key version of “Auld Lang Syne,” but many of those people don’t even know where the tradition started.

Back in 1788, the Scottish poet Robert Burns drafted the song “Auld Lang Syne” after hearing it being sung by an old man. The song is simply about friendship and its endurance through the years. It’s also about having a few celebratory drinks to honor friendship.

“The biggest tradition I remember and still enjoy is auld lang syne,” said Anthony Paternostro, a Picayune resident.

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He said over the years, he has heard the song less and less played at New Year’s, but he makes sure he plays it every year at midnight.

The song became a New Year’s Eve tradition in 1929 when Guy Lombardi and His Royal Canadians were contracted to play at the Roosevelt Hotel. The performance was broadcast on NBC Radio and thus a tradition was born, according to a Huffington Post article.

In the late 1950s, Lombardi moved his show to the Waldorf-Astoria, where it was broadcast on CBS Television. When he died in 1977, viewers switched to Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which first aired in 1974 on NBC.

Mike Conway, a Picayune resident, said he grew up in Manhattan and went to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

According to the Times Square Alliance, the Times Square tradition started in 1904 as part of the official opening of the new headquarters of The New York Times. The newspaper owner Alfred Ochs, set up an all-day street festival with fireworks being set off at the base of the tower at midnight. More than 200,000 people attended the celebration.

In 1907, the city banned the fireworks display, but Ochs arranged for a large, illuminated seven-hundred-pound iron and wood ball be lowered from the tower flagpole at midnight to signal the beginning of the New Year.

The Times Square Alliance said the glowing Ball didn’t drop in 1942 and 1943 because of wartime “dimout” of lights in New York City. Instead, crowds celebrated with chimes ringing out from sound trucks parked at the base of the Tower.

Conway said seeing the Ball drop is the biggest tradition in New York City.

“It’s extremely crowded, but it was really fun,” Conway said.

So on New Year’s Eve, for auld lang syne, “we’ll take a cup o’ kindness” and “I’ll buy mine.”