A New Year in Old New York: A history of celebration from Times Square to Chinatown

PODCAST The ultimate history of New Year’s celebrations in New York City.

This is the story of the many ways in which New Yorkers have ushered in the coming year, a moment of rebirth, reconciliation, reverence and jubilation.

In a mix of the old and new, we present a history of early New Year’s festivities, before heading to the city’s most famous party — New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Why did Times Square become the focal point for the world’s reflection on a new calendar year? And how did Times Square’s many changes in the 20th century influence those celebrations? Featuring Dick Clark, Guy Lombardo, Three Dog Night — and Daisy Duke.

THEN Greg brings you the story of the Chinese New Year which has been celebrated in Manhattan’s Chinatown since before there was even a Times Square! The celebration has been at the bedrock of the Chinese experience in New York. But in the 19th century, the customs of the season were met with curiosity, bewilderment and sometimes harsh disapproval.  And what’s up with the fireworks?

Listen Now: Chinese New Year New York Podcast

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Visit Times Square NYE for details about this Tuesday’s party in Times Square.  For general information about this year’s Chinese New Year, check out this handy web guide.  And visit Better Chinatown for a map of this year’s parade route.

New Years Day celebrations have evolved since the days of New Amsterdam when visitations symbolized a ‘fresh start’ to the year.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

A decorative cigar box from the 1890s, ringing in the new year with a winsome damsel and wholesome scenes of winter beckoning you to smoke a cigar.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The crowds outside Trinity Church on 1906 gathered to usher in the new year. The church was traditionally the place people gathered before the Times Square celebration took off.

1

Fated to be the centerpiece of New Years Eve, One Times Square once wore some beautiful architecture until much of it was ripped off to accommodate a frenzy of electronic signs.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

Times Square in 1905 for the very first New Years Eve celebration albeit one with fireworks, not a ball drop.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

The party offerings at the Hotel Astor in Times Square in 1926.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The view of Times Square from the Empire State Building.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

New Years Eve 1938

AP photo
AP photo

The throngs in 1940 with the Gone With The Wind marquee in the background (not to mention Tallulah Bankhead in the play The Little Foxes!)

Courtesy New York Daily News
Courtesy New York Daily News

Ushering in 1953:

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Celebrations were also held for a time in Central Park, like this festive group from 1969:

Courtesy New York Parks Department
Courtesy New York Parks Department

An electrician from the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation tests out the lighting effects that will greet the new year in 1992.

MARTY LEDERHANDLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MARTY LEDERHANDLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Images of Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatown from the early 20th century, courtesy the Library of Congress.

[1900] Library of Congress
Chinese child with an adult on step outside of building, Chinatown, New York City, 1909. Library of Congress
[Jan. 30 1911] Library of Congress

The parade in 1936.

Museum of the City of New York

The Chinese New Year Parade of 1943 was decidedly more patriotic

Museum of the City of New York

FURTHER LISTENING