The surprising reason Americans drop a ball on New Year's Eve


Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: The New Year's Eve ball drop started over 100 years ago.

Based on a 19th-century maritime tradition, "time balls" were once dropped down poles in ports at noon. Ships would use the balls to adjust their clocks to the local time.

Lightbulbs, a new technology at the time, were used to create a lighted time ball. It would drop over Times Square for the first time on New Year's Eve 1907.

That first ball was six feet in diameter, made of iron and wood, weighed 700 pounds, and contained 100 lightbulbs. The tradition has continued ever since.


There have been seven different versions of the ball.

The one we use today was introduced in 2008. It's 12 feet in diameter, weighs 11,875 pounds, contains 2,688 Waterford crystals, and 32,256 LED lights. It's the largest crystal ball in the world.

It can produce 16 million colors and billions of patterns. The LED lights make it more energy efficient so it can now stay lit year-round.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This video was originally published in December 2015.