The concept of dropping a ball to mark the passage of time has its roots in maritime tradition. More than a century after the first Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop, the custom has taken on a life of its own, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.
In a growing number of cities around the country, it wouldn't be a New Year's celebration without falling food.
Atlanta drops a peach. Miami, a neon orange. And a MoonPie flies over Mobile, Alabama, to mark the start of the New Year.
In Lebanon, Pennsylvania, it's bologna. In Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, a pickle.
Not to be upstaged, a drag queen named "Sushi" descends over the streets of Key West, Florida.
The tradition of ringing in the New Year by dropping an object was born on top of The New York Times building in 1907. The city had banned fireworks, so the newspaper's publisher at the time, Adolph Ochs, went looking for a new way to mark the coming of the New Year. He adapted a maritime ritual.
"This was a tradition, a mariners' tradition from harbors where a ball would drop at a certain time of day to let all the ships at sea and in the harbor know what time it was," New York Times reporter David Dunlap said.
Ochs arranged to have a 700-pound illuminated ball lowered from the Times building flagpole precisely at midnight.
"It was a perfect and much less flammable way to bring in the New Year," Dunlap said.
Although today's celebrations often include pyrotechnics, the drop has endured.
In music city, Nashville, Tennessee, it's a 15-foot red note, while New Orleans appropriately lowers a fleur-de-lis.
Each drop marks the passing of times gone by, but it's the crowds that make the party.
"The ball is just in essence the stirrer in the cocktail that is really the energy of the crowd," Dunlap said.
Crowds started gathering in New York's Times Square the day before New Year's Eve, despite below-freezing temperatures forecast for the celebrations. Over a million people are expected to watch the ball drop in person this year.