Janice Frank writes: Thinking of how one explains this custom to an intelligent Martian, or even just a foreign ethnologist studying strange American customs:� Each community selects some oddball Object, part of the point being to have a different object from those of other communities.� This can severely tax the originality of those in charge but they always manage to think of something.�� On New Years' Eve this Object is hoisted up high by some means, all available TV cameras are focused on it,�and an elaborate production is then made of dropping it at a carefully synchronized time on the clock_Midnight, local time.
Note that the word "drop" should not be taken too literally; the object is not dropped so that it goes "Splat!", or "Crash!" or "Ka-boom!" or however it might go.� While this could provide some satisfaction or closure to some, it is unthinkable because the object must be carefully preserved and stashed away, so it can be gotten out the following year and the whole process repeated.� So rather than being actually dropped, the object is carefully and gently but rapidly lowered to the place where it started out.
This is followed by fireworks, which our ethnologist can more easily understand because fireworks for New Years are a widespread custom in the world as a whole.� Then some of the people gather in small groups and sing a particular song in a dialect which Americans do not use any other time.� The origins of this are said to be in Scotland, although American New Years celebrations have nothing else Scottish about them, unless one counts a certain beverage that is consumed in some cases.
Finally, everyone goes home and the whole process is repeated the following year, sometimes with a new, bigger and better version of the Object.
*Someplace (we still don't know where) tosses a possum over the roof.
*Africa: They throw refrigerators out windows, according to the BBC.
*New York City, NY: Known as the Big Apple, but drops a ball?
*Mt. Olive, NC: drops a pickle.
Janice Frank writes: This is a small place and it is just hoisted up what looks like a flagpole to me (only saw it on TV), but it is admittedly a very large and very green pickle.� This takes place at the corner of Cucumber and Vine Streets.� They dropped it at 7 PM. The guy said, well, it is midnight by GMT.� I think they were just making the occasion more suitable for little kids.
*Raleigh, NC: an acorn
Janice Frank writes: We saw the Acorn Drop at Raleigh.� Raleigh calls itself the City of Oaks, so this makes some sense on one level.� I should perhaps explain that the Southern oaks used for street trees are mostly willow oaks and water oaks, which may not be familiar to Northerners.� These are huge trees but their acorns are very small by Northern standards, only about the size of chick peas.
The one dropped for New Years is big, probably 5 or 6 ft high, made of polished copper, so it is a somewhat realistic acorn color.� The setup is not as elaborate as that in New York; it is just hoisted by a construction crane.
*Carlisle, PA: raised the American Flag in 2003!
*Cleona, PA: drops a pretzel
*Dillsburg, PA: drops a pickle
Janice Frank writes: I always chuckle about Dillsburg - people must think that's where the dill pickle came from! Of course, we PA Dutch know that it was named after Matthew Dill, an officer in the French & Indian wars.
*Elizabethtown, PA: home of M&M/Mars drops a giant M&M candy in center square.
*Falmouth, PA: drops the goat
*Harrisburg, PA: dropped a strawberry cow in 2003 and a strawberry in 2006
*Hershey, PA: 2006 was the first year for the giant Hershey Kiss to be dropped
*Lancaster, PA: drops a red rose
*Lebanon, PA: drops a big bologna
Don Dippner writes: in 2006, Lebanon dropped a 100 lb. length of Lebanon bologna which was all dazzled with lights and decorations.� Strangely enough, the reporter in Lebanon had never tasted Lebanon bologna and had received a sample which he was going to take home and fry to eat
*Manheim, PA: in 2004 drop a lighted orb with 2004 on it.
*Red Lion, PA: drops a cigar with a lighted cigar band on it_at one time Red Lion produced 80 % of the cigars sold in the USA.
Don Dippner writes: Another tradition, quite evident here in York County, is the firing of shotguns into the air at midnight, accompanied by numerous fireworks displays and the loud booming firecrackers as well.
*Richland, PA: is dropping a Cigar for the first time in 2005
*York, PA: drops a white rose
NOTE: Our PA Dutch ancestors fired old flintlocks into the air, and some pounded on anvils in blacksmith shops on New Year's to usher in the new year.
NOTE: Daniel Reinhold wrote: The New Year's Tradition�
Bayberry candles and the traditions thereof go back to the earliest settlers of the American colonies. The settlers were in need of everything imaginable, especially lighting. In their quest for waxes, oils and anything that would sustain a flame, they came upon the bayberry shrub. Its berry-type fruit is crusted with a greenish-white wax. The settlers found that by boiling the fruit, it created a wax residue on the top of the water.
The wax had a fragrant aroma and was much harder and more brittle than beeswax of which they were already familiar. In order to get enough wax to make just one bayberry candle, many bayberry fruits had to be boiled. The settlers learned that the bayberry candles were worth the extra effort because they burnt longer, cleaner and with a brighter light than did the traditional candles of the time. Due to the amount of work necessary to create just one bayberry candle, they were saved and burned on special occasions only! One such special occasion was New Year's Day (evening/night). Over the years, the burning of bayberry candles on New Year's became a tradition. Along with the tradition, a saying was created by whom, no one knows, which still continues today. The saying is "Bayberry candles burned to the socket, bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket!"
Last Modified Sunday, 08-Feb-2009 06:46:38 MST
© copyright 2007-2009 Richard Berkheiser.