TIMES SQUARE, NY — Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31st, revelers in New York celebrate the stroke of midnight with the traditional New Year’s Eve ball drop over Times Square.
Anticipation runs high. New Year’s Eve at the symbolic center of New York City has become more than just a celebration – it’s a global tradition. For many it marks the official start of the New Year.
As the famous New Year’s Eve Ball descends from the flagpole atop One Times Square, an estimated one million people in Times Square, millions nationwide and over a billion watching throughout the world are united in bidding a collective farewell to the departing year, and expressing our joy and hope for the year ahead.
This year the ball is covered with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles and illuminated by more than 32,000 colored LEDs.
For 40 years, Dick Clark has been an iconic part of New Year’s Eve in Times Square whose charm and singular presence as a television host have helped make New Year’s Eve what it is today. It’s the first New Year’s Eve without longtime host Dick Clark, who died in April. His name is engraved into a panel of the crystal ball.
Security is tight.
Along with an army of uniformed and plainclothes officers, police will inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags.
Police stressed there are no specific terrorism threats related to the celebration.
Celebrations may be somewhat tempered this year with only hours left until a midnight deadline for automatic tax rises and spending cuts, otherwise known as the ‘Fiscal Cliff‘. Barack Obama said agreement was within sight but discussions were continuing.
If no deal was concluded, every taxpayer in America would be hit with steep rises from Tuesday. These would be accompanied by deep cuts in federal spending programs, ranging from defense to welfare, in particular unemployment benefits.
Obama, who flew back from holiday in Hawaii to deal with the crisis, told a press conference at the White House: “Today it appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year’s Eve hike is within sight, but it is not done. There are still issues left to resolve but we are hopeful that Congress can get it done. But it is not done.”
In Europe the Pope marked the end of a difficult year by saying that despite all the death and injustice in the world, goodness prevails.
Benedict celebrated New Year’s Eve with a vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica to give thanks for 2012 and look ahead to 2013.
In his homily, Benedict said it’s tough to remember that goodness prevails when bad news death, violence and injustice “makes more noise than good.”
He said taking time to meditate in prolonged reflection and prayer can help “find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life.”