Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31, anticipation runs high as the world holds its breath waiting for the sparkling New Year’s Eve Ball to descend from its flagpole atop One Times Square. We all know that the countdown starts at 10, but there are a handful of other fun facts to muse over when it comes to the city’s most lauded tradition. From the wattage of the ball to the weight of trash produced to how long it takes to get it all cleaned up, see what we’ve rounded up, in numbers, ahead!
The 2007 Times Square Ball during construction. Image courtesy of Focus Lighting.
When midnight hits this New Year’s Eve, the Times Square Ball will dazzle people just the same from five feet away or on their television. Making this magic happen is no easy feat, though. To learn a bit more about how the nearly 12,000-pound ball was created, we chatted with principal designer Christine Hope of Focus Lighting, the architectural lighting design firm who conceptualized the current ball more than 10 years ago. From engineering a new system to make all 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles sparkle to dreaming up the magical light show that plays leading up to the ball drop, Focus Lighting shares the inside scoop on this world-famous tradition.
Photo: NYC Parks / D. Avila
Not quite sure how to get rid of that Christmas Tree? From December 26 to January 11, NYC will be hosting its annual Mulchfest so that you can recycle your tree at a local park. With 67 total drop-off sites throughout the five boroughs—32 of which are chipping sites—it’s easier than ever to get your tree turned into mulch that will be used to help nourish trees and plants across the city.
Image of the first Christmas tree in City Hall park in 1913; via Library of Congress
In 1912, the nation’s first public Christmas tree went up in Madison Square Park and sparked a new trend that would soon spread to parks across the city and beyond. The following year, acting Mayor Ardolph Kline initiated a similar tradition when he asked a young boy to help him light a Christmas tree in City Hall Park. By 1934, tree lighting celebrations became a citywide effort, with the Parks Department putting up 14 fifty-foot Norway Spruce trees throughout the city. Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia dedicated the trees from City Hall Park and broadcasted the ceremony to sites across the city.
Photo ©AMNH/ R. Mickens
On Thursday, the week-long holiday Kwanzaa kicks off as a celebration of African American culture and heritage in the United States. From Dec. 26, through Jan. 1, New Yorkers can learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba, through traditional music and dancing, kinara lighting, African folklore storytime, and a bar crawl featuring only black-owned businesses. Ahead, find the best places in NYC to celebrate Kwanzaa, from family-friendly arts and crafts and lectures at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum to live performances at Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theater.
New Year’s Eve is one of those events where it seems all of humanity has converged upon New York City. If you fancy rubbing shoulders (or more) with at least a million of them, Times Square is your best bet. But if you’d rather enjoy a more curated, yet still public, experience, check out any of the many events happening in the city as the second decade of the millennium lurches to a close; below is just a sampling. Debauch responsibly–hindsight, as they say, is 2020.
Photo by Ian Hardy for Countdown Entertainment
The new year has arrived in New York City…at least in numbers. Two seven-foot-tall numerals, the “2” and “0” in 2020, are currently on display in Times Square, offering the public a chance to snap a photo with the famous digits before they are placed on top of One Times Square. The 2020 signage sits below the crystal-filled New Year’s Eve ball and will light up at midnight on December 31, marking the start of a new decade.
Photo by Sean Brady, courtesy of the Gramercy Park Block Association
It’s a Christmas Eve miracle. The gates to Gramercy Park will open to all for one hour on Dec. 24, the only time of year the public can enjoy the exclusive greenspace. The Gramercy Park Block Association on Friday confirmed to 6sqft that the private park between East 20th and East 21st Street will once again open from 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. for caroling this Christmas Eve. All other times of the year, the park is only accessible to residents with one of the 400 keys, provided to those who live in the 39 buildings surrounding the square.
Though all across the U.S. of A., Santa Claus and his missus appear arm in arm, NYC Santas have no time (or budget) for a wife, according to the Wall Street Journal. Several women who don Mrs. Claus outfits in a professional capacity during the winter holiday season have said that they’re not only paid about half what Santa gets–more along the lines of what an elf is paid, according to Brian Harrell, CEO of the Minneapolis-based All Time Favorites, Inc. which employs 600 “premium” Santa performers–but there’s not much call for Mrs. Claus in the city at all.
Despite being the City That Never Sleeps, New York does close down a bit on Christmas Day, with all sorts of museums, shops, restaurants, and other businesses giving their staff a break for the holiday. But for those of us who do not celebrate or won’t be spending all of Christmas at home squabbling over politics with family, there’s still plenty to do in town, especially if you get a little creative. Here are seven great options.