What are New Year celebrations about?


By Sandy Rose Schwieterman - For the Sidney Daily News



SIDNEY – An ideal New Year’s celebration has two goals. First, to provide the community its opportunity to come together to celebrate their unique approach to the fresh new year. A second goal might be the opportunity for each individual to come clean about their expectations and those pesky things called resolutions.

For a very long time, the object dropped symbolizes what is important to the community. While a the crystal-encrusted ball drops in glamorous New York City, each community’s symbol shows local sensibilities and priorities, or just a good sense of humor.

Port Clinton, Ohio, drops a large walleye fish named “Captain Wylie Walleye.” Understandable, since the walleye sport fishing industry totaled $800 million in 2019. The town of Marion counted down to the New Year with the help of a giant illuminated popcorn ball. Marion’s ties to the snack food date back to World War I, when it was served to soldiers passing through town. During the Great Depression, the Wyandot Popcorn Company was founded.

In the past, Elmore, Ohio, dropped an 18-foot illuminated sausage every five years to honor Tank’s Meats, an Elmore institution since 1907. They claimed, rightly, that it was the “wurst” festival! Sometimes the reasons for a particular ball drop symbol is a little more obscure. In Vincennes, Indiana, an 18-foot 500-pound steel-and-foam Watermelon Ball was raised then released 11 locally-grown watermelons. That must have made quite a splash! Savannah, Georgia has hosted Up the Cup on River Street, featuring the raising of a to-go cup. In Tallapoosa, Georgia, a stuffed opossum named Spencer is lowered while in Unadilla, Georgia, a hog is brought to earth at midnight.

In Brasstown, North Carolina, a plexiglas pyramid containing a live opossum was lowered from the roof of a convenience store. The possum was turned loose at the end of the celebration but the activity ceased after repeated complaints from animal rights groups. At Key West Florida, local gay bar The 801 Saloon, drops a ruby slipper with drag queen Gary “Sushi” Marion. No complaints there.

Sometimes human/ball drop interaction goes awry. In October 2015, for the first-ever New Year’s Eve drop in Marietta, Ohio, an aerialist came out of the ball while it was being lowered during the count-down. Once out, the aerialist performed until a few minutes after midnight, confusing many people about exactly when it was time to cheer for the New Year.

It’s all about what people care about. As most know, at Times Square in New York City, an 11,875 pound ball covered in Waterford Crystal panels is lowered from the top of One Times Square. But in another part of New York City, a giant lighted ukulele is dropped by a local ukulele-playing duo. Not to be outdone, Niagara Falls, New York drops a ten-foot Gibson Guitar at the stroke of midnight at the Hard Rock Cafe. Here is a question: Why a ball drop anyway? The practice of “dropping” balls to signal the passage of time is an old one. One of the most notable examples was at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1833, where they dropped a ball daily at 1 p.m. in order to communicate the time to passing ships.

Humanity has a long history of celebrating a new year and expecting good behavior. In ancient Babylon over 4,000 years ago, their celebrations included requiring a resolution of good behavior from their ruler. This peculiar tradition had the king brought before a statue of the god Marduk, stripped of his royal regalia and forced to swear that he had led the city with honor and offer a resolution to do the same in the next year. A high priest would then slap the monarch and drag him by his ears in the hope of making him cry. If royal tears were shed, it was seen as a sign that the king was sincere in his resolution, so Marduk was satisfied and symbolically extended the king’s rule.

The traditions of the ancient Romans also may have provided some historic reason for our resolution making. They believed the month of January was an important time to make resolutions since the namesake for the month, the two-faced Janus, signified change and new beginnings. According to the dictionary, the definition of making New Year’s resolutions is “setting goals for the New Year.”

While many folks choose to skip the annual goal-setting phenomenon, almost half of American adults do indeed set at least one resolution in honor of the New Year. But why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep? Some modern thinkers maintain that it is in the breaking of a resolution that a person can show more character. According to writer Eric Zorn “Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.”

In other words, we are not as in-control of our lives as we would like to think; better to embrace compromise and humility. Let’s face it, losing that 20 pounds this year is hard to make happen without proper planning. So, in celebration of the fresh New Year, let everyone recognize how our our human strengths and weaknesses, histories and traditions will always keep the future interesting.

By Sandy Rose Schwieterman

For the Sidney Daily News