The giant Peep of NYE Peepsfest in Bethlehem

Every year, millions tune in from around the world on Dec. 31 to watch a massive, sparkly ball come down from the sky in Times Square.

Most of those viewers probably don’t know that at the same time, a collection of much more… unique objects descend from the heavens in the cities and towns of a neighboring state.

New Year’s Eve “drops” — they’re more like gradual lowerings, really — are apparently derived from a time-keeping practice started in the 1830s at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. There, a “time-ball” would drop at 1 p.m. every day to help ship captains set their chronometers, according to the Times Square website. New York City has been doing a Dec. 31 ball drop to signal the passage of time for over 100 years.

Pennsylvania’s become sort of known for its local twists on the tradition.

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The takes, which have come and gone, are usually organized by municipal governments, local development organizations, or private businesses. Most items are somehow significant to their towns’ economies, histories, cultures, or names.

Past years’ countdown drops (or raises) in Pa. have included Myerstown’s giant Bayer aspirin tablet, Easton’s oversized Crayola crayon, and Shamokin’s huge piece of coal.

One of the oddest is in Lower Allen Township, which at midnight will drop a 4-ft. sculpture of yellow pants known as “Big Breechie.” Organizer Bradley Anderson told Billy Penn the custom has been called one of the “quirkiest” New Year traditions in the entire country. “We’re rather proud of that moniker,” he said.

Started in 2009, the ritual pays homage to the nearby Yellow Breeches Creek, per Anderson. Like the other drops, it’s a chance to bring the community together for a celebration with games, food, and music. At 10 p.m., they drop “Baby Breechie” — a real, child-sized pair of pants with a blue wig and big eyes — so kids can also get in on the fun.

Philadelphia — though certainly home to eccentric New Year’s celebrations of its own — isn’t particularly big on the descending-object custom.

Across the rest of the commonwealth, though, there are dozens more drops going down this year. Here’s a glimpse at some of them.

Pittsburgh: 1,000-lb. ball of sustainable materials

Pennsylvania’s second-largest city raises the 6.5-ft. diameter “Future of Pittsburgh Ball” — a half-ton of recycled steel, ecoresin, and high-efficiency LED lights — nearly 75 feet into the air.

Kennett Square: Mushroom

The “Mushroom Capital of the World” will ring in 2023 by lowering its massive, illuminated fungus sculpture for the 10th time.

Kennett Square’s annual NYE mushroom celebration Credit: Facebook / Kathi Kelly Lafferty

Lancaster and York: Roses, minus the war

The central Pa. cities’ NYE traditions are a callback to a long and violent period in British history from over five centuries ago. Lancaster’s rose sculpture is red, and York’s is white.

Gettysburg: Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat

The Adams County town, of “Battle of…” and “…Address” fame, is paying tribute to its Civil War history with this new addition. The lighted hat, which stands 14 feet tall and is made of aluminum, will be raised at midnight.

Sunbury: Lightbulb

The Northumberland County community along the Susquehanna River plans to raise an Edison bulb during its 2023 countdown, and then turn it on at midnight.

Bethlehem: Giant Peep

The home of Just Born Quality Confections, manufacturer of the popular Easter marshmallows — is celebrating on both Dec. 30 and 31 by lowering a 400-lb. Peeps chick at 5:35 p.m. each day. Sadly, it’s not actually edible.

Lebanon drops a real bologna on NYE — and the meat is then sent to a food bank Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lebanon: Lebanon bologna and a disco ball

Lebanon will drop a local deli staple — courtesy of Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats — dangling from a locally-manufactured disco ball. Bonus: this one is real, and the meat gets donated to the Lebanon Rescue Mission after the event.

Mechanicsburg, Shippensburg, Hershey, and Dillsburg: You might be able to guess

These central Pa. towns stay true to their names: Mechanicsburg drops a steel wrench, Shippensburg drops an anchor, Hershey raises a chocolate kiss, and Dillsburg drops a pickle.

Duncannon: Sled

With a long history of sled-making, this borough in Perry County drops one every New Year’s Eve to ring in another year of sliding down snowy hills.

YouTube video

Akron and Hallam: A shoe and a shoe house

Akron in Lancaster County will host its annual “shoe-in” on NYE, where a giant purple and gold sneaker is lowered to the ground. Meanwhile, Hallam in York County drops the other one..kind of. Home of the boot-shaped “Shoe House”, it drops a replica of the building.

Harrisburg: Strawberry

In a tradition apparently created because of a street name, the state capital will lower a big strawberry at midnight. Earlier in the evening, the city is also planning to drop 1,000 balloons.

Marysville and Mifflintown: Bridges

Located along the Susquehanna River, Marysville will drop a replica of the Rockville Bridge. Mifflintown, on the Juniata River, is paying homage to one of its bridges too.

New Bloomfield: Huckleberry

Located near huckleberry plants that have been there for over a thousand years, New Bloomfield in Perry County will ring in 2023 with its annual berry drop.

Plains Township: Huge brick

Another for the new traditions list: This Northeast Pa. township plans to drop a 4-ft. by 2-ft. wood and PVC-pipe replica brick at “The Brick,” a longtime community gathering space.

Ephrata: It’s a ~mystery~

In Lancaster County, Ephrata is getting a new “Unexpected” celebration in its downtown, featuring some kind of drop or raise… but apparently you have to go to find out what it’s gonna be.

Reamstown, Pottsville, Carlisle, and KOP: Beer, beer, and more beer

Breweries in Reamstown, Carlisle, and King of Prussia are bringing the party home and lowering beer cans and kegs on NYE. Yuengling hometown Pottsville usually raises a beer bottle, but it’s unclear if that’s happening this year.

Red Lion celebrates with a lion — not red, but fully cigar’d up Credit: Red Lion Happenings

Red Lion: A lion hoisting a cigar

The York County community, which was once home to 150 cigar factories, is continuing the annual tradition of raising a cutout of a lion holding a stogie above its head.

Where to watch things drop in Philly

There are a handful of spots in the city planning drop events on NYE, though not all at midnight:

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...