Across the United States, Americans celebrate the new year in many ways. Some traditions have regional roots, traced to immigration patterns and ethnic enclaves in cities large and small, while other New Year’s customs — like the famous ball drop in New York City’s Times Square — have maritime or other origins.
And of course, Americans attend parties held in private homes or public spaces. Here are a few examples of how Americans usher in the new year, from coast to coast.
A performer known as Sushi sits in a large replica of a woman’s high-heeled shoe during the Red Shoe Drop, celebrating the new year above Duval Street in Key West, Florida, December 31, 2019. Key West also hosts a number of other New Year’s festivities, including waterfront fireworks displays and the descent of a gigantic man-made conch shell (the symbol of the Florida Keys) on the roof of a local bar.
Visitors from all over the country — and the world — join New Yorkers on New Year’s Eve to watch a lighted ball descend on a pole at Times Square at the stroke of midnight. Here, Irene Mayoral and Gerald Nuell, a newly engaged couple from Spain, share a kiss in Times Square January 1, 2022, while confetti rains down on revelers in the street.
“Time balls,” based on a 19th-century maritime tradition, were once dropped down poles in ports at noon. “Ships would use the balls to adjust their clocks to the local time,” according to the business news website Insider. The New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City started more than 100 years ago, in 1907.
Like people the world over, Americans often make New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise, and many like to enjoy the outdoors while burning some calories. This couple walks on a jetty near a beach early on New Year’s Day 2015 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
A Boston tradition, dating to 1904, involves revelers running into frigid water on New Year’s Day for a first swim of the year. There are many similar New Year’s rituals across the U.S., with swimmers symbolically “wiping the slate clean” and getting a fresh start by plunging into the water on January 1. (Some will dash in and out of the water quickly, while others will do their full, daily swimming routine, despite the icy temperatures.)
These revelers brace for a cold swim at M Street Beach in Boston on New Year’s Day 2022.
Merrymakers in fancy dress participate in the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia January 2, 2022. The Mummers Parade is a folk festival that has been held for more than 120 years to mark the new year. Some 10,000 participants divided into themed groups march through the streets of Philadelphia. “Mumming” is a form of comic pantomime that arrived in Philadelphia via Swedish, German and English immigrants in the late 17th century.
The annual Rose Parade, an iconic New Year’s tradition, includes elaborate floral parade floats, marching bands and high-stepping equestrian units.
The parade precedes the annual Rose Bowl college football game and is sometimes held on January 2 if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. The parade was first staged in 1890 and has only been interrupted by World War II in 1942, 1943 and 1945, and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.
Here spectators line the streets to watch a float at the 133rd Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, January 1, 2022.
The 2024 Rose Parade’s theme is “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” in tribute to the sounds and rhythms that soothe, delight, move and unite people around the globe.
A version of this story was published December 29, 2022.