All those tourists wearing diapers and clogging up Midtown this time of year to watch the ball drop in Times Square — you can blame the New York Times for that.
The New Year's Eve extravaganza as we know it — including that sparkling ball that plunges as the old year ends — originated as a fete marking the paper's move to its former headquarters at One Times Square. (Today, they're at 620 Eighth Ave.)
Here are a few other things you probably didn't know about the city's New Year's Eve celebrations.
► The first Times Square New Years' Eve celebration took place in 1904.
As stated above, the big bash commemorated the Times' move from headquarters at 41 Park Row to One Times Square. (Times owner Adolph Ochs persuaded the city to rename his paper's new address, the area formerly known as Longacre Square, after the paper.)
He spared no expense when it came to planning New Years' Eve festivities, which kicked off with an all-day street festival and culminated in fireworks shooting out from the tower's base.
"No more beautiful picture was ever limned in fire on the curtain of midnight," the Times wrote the next day, waxing poetic. "From base to dome the giant structure was alight — a torch to usher in the new born, a funeral pyre for the old which pierced the very heavens."
► The first ball to drop in Times Square was constructed of wood and iron.
The fireworks didn't last very long: the city banned the display two years after Ochs introduced it. So he arranged to have an illuminated 700-pound iron and wood ball descend the One Times Square tower flagpole exactly at midnight, signaling the end of 1907 and the start of 1908.
What was the significance of dropping a ball? At the time, the Western Union Company on Broadway dropped a metallic ball down its building spire every day at noon so that passersby could synchronize their watches.
For New Yorkers, the sight of a ball descending signified the action of keeping time.
The ball drop tradition continues to this day, but the ball has seen numerous technological upgrades over the years, from the original iron-and-wood sphere to a 11,875-pound orb 12 feet in diameter, covered in 2,688 crystal triangles bolted to 672 LED modules.
► The ball has glowed and dropped every year since 1907—except for 1942 and 1943.
During World War II, New York City observed a citywide "dim-out" to cut back on energy costs and protect the metropolis from Axis bombings, and the luminous ball took a hiatus for two years. The crowds who gathered in Times Square in 1942 and 1943 welcomed the new year with a minute of silence, after which chimes rang out from sound trucks parked at the base of the Times Tower.
► Before Times Square became the center of New York's New Year's Eve celebrations, the happening place to celebrate the holiday was the base of Trinity Church in Little Italy.
As many as 15,000 people would show up to hear the church bells crime, blow horns they bought on the street, and welcome in the new year, according to Ephemeral New York.
Like today's marathon party in Times Square, revelries near the church attracted their share of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, "from New Jersey, Long Island, and even Staten Island," the Times wrote in 1897. (Sorry, Staten Island.)
That year, the crowds were so thick that by 11 p.m., cable cars bringing more merrymakers "were almost entirely stalled."
Downtown Manhattan would prove itself too cramped a landscape for all the New Yorkers who wanted to celebrate New Year's there. At the start of 1901, panic broke out as thousands tried to push their way out of the area with a small police force struggling to contain the situation.
► A gang of thousands, calling themselves "Callithumpians," beat the Santas of SantaCon by two centuries when it came to drunkenly desecrating Lower Manhattan.
They wrought their havoc as 1827 became 1828, gathering to drink together on the Bowery on New Year's Eve and throw a bash that involved vandalizing numerous sites in the neigborhood, according to a New-York Historical Society publication. In the wee hours of Jan. 1, 1828, the working-class rabble-rousers accosted and harrassed party-goers leaving a fancy dress ball at the City Hotel.
► In the 19th century, gentlemen spent their New Year's Days visiting their female acquaintances — rather than nursing their hangovers.
At every home they visited, men had a bit to drink and eat, dropped off a calling card with their names and addresses, wished their host a happy new year. Men competed to visit the most ladies, women vied to collect the most calling cards. By the end of the 19th century, the tradition had nearly died out, noted the Times in 1888: Some of the "old boys" persevered in making the rounds, but "few carriages were observed bearing the gentlemen about on a pilgrimage of good wishes."
► The confetti that rains down on Times Square at midnight is dispersed by hands of at least 75 volunteers.
A crew of confetti dispersers stands on the setbacks on the upper floors of eight different buildings in Times Square, confetti master Treb Heining told Mashable in 2013.
"We did — and still do — everything by hand," rather than confetti launchers, said Heining, whose company also coordinates balloon drops at national political conventions. "You do have 'confetti arm' afterward; the dispersal is a physically violent act."
► During the inaugural broadcast of "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," there was no countdown to the new year.
Instead, the man who'd become the eponymous host of the annual televised celebration said, quite simply: “It is now 1973, as of now.” (Now where's the drama in that?) Clark died in 2012 and Ryan Seacrest has taken over hosting duties.