Raybeck Discusses Tradition of Dropping Object at Midnight to Mark New Year

Douglas Raybeck
Douglas Raybeck
Professor of Anthropology Emeritus Douglas Raybeck was interviewed for a Washington Post article (12/31/08) about the tradition of dropping an object at midnight to mark the entry of a new year. The article, "Forget the Big Apple – Drop a Peach," described how the city of Annapolis, Md., was planning to drop a sailboat at midnight, in recognition of the city's reputation as a sailing capital. Raybeck contends that it all comes down to a human need to mark moments of change, and the dropping of balls, sausages and other preferred objects constitutes the perfect symbol. "It's a shared experience. Everyone can see the inception and the terminus of the ball drop," he said. 

In the article Raybeck explains that it wouldn't work as well to launch an object because it continues into the air for unknown periods of time. Dropping is linear and has a definite end. It quantifies visually the exact moment we enter another year, with all its promises of possibilities and new hope.  "We call it a liminal period, a threshold and point of transition," Raybeck said.
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