Why Do We "Ring In" the New Year?

These days, you can say you’re “ringing in” the New Year with plenty of things that don’t ring: a toast, a kiss, an ambitious New Year’s resolution, a Netflix marathon, an entire sheet cake to yourself, and so forth. When the phrase originated, however, it involved something that actually rang: bells. Decades before hordes of revelers started flocking to Times Square to watch the ball drop, they congregated farther downtown at Wall Street’s Trinity Church. There, they rang in the New Year with a veritable concert put on by the church’s official bell ringer, James E. Ayliffe. According to Trinity Church’s archives, the earliest mention of the tradition is from the minutes of an 1801 meeting where parishioners allotted £8 ($10) to the persons who rang the Bells on New Years day. It might have been going on long before that, considering the fact that the church got its first bell back in 1698. In short, ringing bells was once a central part of the holiday. The fact that it literally ringing in the New Year has faded from memory may help explain why so many people now say “bring in the New Year.”