Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ringing in the New Year

by Rachel Dworkin, archivist

Every year, a bunch of my high school friends and I get together on New Year’s Eve to hang out, play games and drink snooty alcohol.  (I heartily recommend Dog Fish Head Brewery for all your pretentious beer needs).

This isn't us.  They're from the 1890s.

People have been celebrating the New Year’s Eve in America for well over a hundred years.  They have celebrated with formal dinners, fancy parties and large public gatherings.   During the 1800s and early 1900s, fancy New Year's Eve balls sponsored by clubs, military organizations, churches and even hotels were wildly popular.
Ticket to a ball at a hotel in Southport, 1869
Dance Card for a Masonic ball, 1906
Ball goers, ca. 1880s

During the 20th century, large outdoor celebrations came into vogue.  The most famous one is, of course, the New York City ball drop in Times Square which has been going on since 1907.  Starting in 1990, Elmira sponsored 1st Night Elmira, a family-friendly outdoor festival which ran from noon on December 31 to noon January 1st and featured street food, music and other performances, a parade and ball rising (as opposed to dropping).  The program only ran for a few years, but it was probably fun while it lasted.
Program for the 2nd 1st Night.  Yeah, you read that right. 

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