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The history behind the famous New Year's Eve ball drop

On the final day of every year, people all around the globe gather with friends, family, and colleagues to celebrate the transition into an uncharted year.

In New York City, roughly one million people meet in the heart of Times Square to watch the famous ball drop on top of One Times Square as a way to inaugurate the days ahead.

While Times Square first celebrated New Year’s Eve in 1904 with fireworks, New York’s first New Year’s ball drop came in 1907 with a 700-pound iron “time ball” inspired by maritime traditions in the 1800s. Former New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs pushed for the ball drop after the city implemented a fireworks ban three years prior.

New Year's eve on 1940 (left) and 2010 (right). (Photos: AP)

Today’s ball, over a century later, will be 12 feet in diameter and weigh 11,875 pounds. Rather than looking like a spikeless, round, iron mace, the ball will be studded with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and lit up using 32,256 Luxeon Rebel LED red, green, blue, and white lights.

“When we think of Waterford Crystal, we think of celebration,” Tom Brennan, the Waterford Crystal ambassador and artisan in North America, told Yahoo Finance. “We think of success.”

‘There was magic behind those doors’

Raised in the town of Waterford, Ireland — a town founded by Vikings in the year 914 — Brennan’s mom would drive him to the factory where his father worked to see the crystals being made.

“I always knew there was magic behind those doors,” said Brennan.

Landmark Signs & Electric workers installing a new panel with new crystal triangles for this year's New Year's Eve Ball. (Photo: Yahoo Finance)

Waterford Crystal originated in 1783, and Brennan followed the footsteps of his father — who was a glassblower for the 30 years — when he began an apprenticeship at Waterford in 1986. It took roughly seven years of meticulous training to learn the early blueprints of the original drawings and melting techniques to become a master craftsman. He is now spokesperson for Waterford Crystal, telling the world the tale of how the Irish craftsmen of decades past made Waterford global and relevant.

“In just a few days time, 1.2 billion people around the world are going to watch this ball drop, which makes Waterford Crystal the most watched brand in the planet,” Brennan said.

The New Year's Eve ball. (Photo: Yahoo Finance)

‘We will live or die on our quality’

Waterford Crystal has been providing its crystal ornaments for the New Year’s Eve ball since 1999 and in 2014, the company started its “greatest gifts” collection. Every New Year since, Waterford has presented a unique crystal-cut pattern to each New Year’s Eve ball release.

Back in its inaugural year of 2014, the company unveiled the “Gift of Imagination,” a ball with dissolving shades of colors ranging from purple to green. The final issue of the collection will be the “Gift of Love” in 2023. It’s projected to be decorated in red six-pointed stars and pentagons in a sea of royal Carthaginian purple.

The company replaced 192 of the 2,688 crystals with 2019’s “Gift of Goodwill” triangles, which are supposed to convey that benevolence and generosity. The triangles — carved with three intertwining pineapples — strike the eye with tiny triangles of blues and white and emerald green.

Waterford's green Crystals & pineapple insignia. (Photo: Yahoo Finance)

“It is an absolute team effort of all of our factories in Waterford, Ireland, in Slovenia,” added Brennan, who said it will take between weeks and months to make the crystal triangles because, “The one thing about Waterford is we will live or die on our quality.”

And this New Year’s Eve, celebrating the entry into the 2020s, will be special.

“We get to do that as people probably eight or nine times in your entire life,” Brennan said excitedly. “We all have a new leaf to turn over on the first of January.”


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