Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Faith Lapidus. Two thousand six is just about here. Today we look at some of the ways that Americans celebrate the New Year.
In America, the best-known place to be on December thirty-first is Times Square in New York City. Hundreds of thousands of people gather in the cold. They crowd together and wait for midnight. It feels like a huge party.
The people count down the final seconds. “Ten … nine … eight … ” All eyes watch a huge glass ball as it slides down a pole on top of a tall building. Someone in the crowd says it looks like a bright piece of snow. Someone else says it looks like thousands of stars. This is a famous Times Square tradition.
When the ball reaches bottom, it is twelve o'clock. People shout “Happy New Year!” There is lots of excitement. More than a ton of confetti, little pieces of paper, rains down on the crowd.
The crowd does its duty and tries to sing "Auld Lang Syne," a traditional song of friendship at the New Year. Most people only know the first few words. The song is pretty much a mystery. But a fun mystery.
People arrive in Times Square while it is still daylight. After dark, at about six o’clock, the New Year’s Eve ball is raised to its highest position. By this time thousands of people are gathered for the celebration ahead.
They ooh and aah when the thousands of little lights in the ball come on. Then everyone waits for midnight. People who have never met talk as if they have known each other all their lives. Visitors from around the world are excited to experience this New York moment.
The first New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square took place in nineteen-oh-four. The owners of a building on Times Square held that first party on the roof of their building. Three years later, a New Year’s ball joined the celebration.
The ball has been dropped every year except for two years during World War Two. In nineteen forty-two and 'forty-three, crowds still gathered in Times Square, but there was little to celebrate.
Lots of Americans will be out someplace special for dinner and dancing on New Year's Eve. Some people like to be on a boat when the New Year arrives.
In Chicago, Illinois, for example, people can choose from several special holiday trips on Lake Michigan. These cruises include dinner and dancing to music performed by a band.
Two hours later, midnight will reach the West Coast. In Southern California, some people will be out on boats in the Pacific Ocean.
Some Americans will have parties at home and invite all their friends.
And no party will be complete without noisemakers -- and a traditional midnight kiss.
Other people will spend a quiet evening at home. They might even be asleep when the clock strikes midnight.
Now for a musical question -- Nancy Wilson asks, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
Some people do too much on New Year’s Eve. To reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents, people will be urged to use a designated driver. This is one person who drinks little or no alcohol while out with friends. That way the designated driver can safely drive the other people home.
In many cities, free tax service will be offered to take people home if they have been drinking.
Many cities will also hold what are called First Night celebrations. These are events without any alcohol. Local artists in Boston, Massachusetts, organized First Night celebrations in nineteen seventy-six.
People in Boston can choose among hundreds of performances and exhibits around the city. People can look at huge statues made of ice. Families can watch fireworks early in the evening. Later, fireworks light the midnight sky.
After the celebrations on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day is often a quiet day.
Many people spend the first day of the New Year at home. Some watch football games on television. Millions like to watch the college game traditionally played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day.
This year, the big game will be played on January fourth. The Rose Bowl Game will serve as the national championship game in college football. The University of Southern California will play the University of Texas Longhorns. The Trojans of Southern California are the two-time defending national champions.
The Rose Bowl Game traditionally follows the Rose Parade in Pasadena. The parade is a show of motor-driven floats covered in flowers. They make a beautiful sight.
But the one hundred seventeenth Rose Parade will take place this year on Monday, January second. That is because January first is a Sunday. When that happens, the parade takes place on the following day.
Some people invite friends to their home to visit on New Year’s Day. In some parts of the country, children and adults still follow an old custom from Europe on January first. They go from house to house singing to friends and neighbors.
One popular song wishes people love and joy in the New Year. Listen now as the Christ Church Cathedral Choir sings the “Wassail Song, ” arranged by Gustav Holst.
Many Americans follow traditions that they hope will bring them good luck in the New Year. Some start the year by eating black-eyed peas or cabbage.
In the South, some people prepare a traditional food called Hoppin’ John. It contains peas, onions, bacon and rice. Children long ago were said to like it so much, they hopped around the room while waiting for it to cook.
Asian-Americans might eat fortune cookies at the New Year. Fortune cookies contain small pieces of paper with a short message telling about a person’s future.
And there are other things people do to celebrate the New Year. Some Latinos, for example, stand on a chair and eat grapes.
Whatever you do to welcome the New Year, we wish you a very happy two thousand six.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. Internet users can read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.