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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

New Year Traditions

In the bygone days of the 19th century, Californians celebrated the coming of a new year much like we do today, with parties, games, spectator sports, and resolutions to better themselves.


Churches drew the faithful for services with choirs and special sermons on New Year’s Eve; masquerade balls promised to usher out the Old and usher in the New with style. Gatherings were advertised as “Watch Parties,” because, after all, the highlight of the dining, dancing, and socializing event was watching the clocks tick forward until the midnight hour chimed.


Our tradition of collegiate football games on New Year’s Day began on January 1, 1902, originally titled “Tournament East-West football game” at Tournament Park in Pasadena. The players were the football teams of the University of Michigan and Stanford University.


Michigan defeated Stanford 49-0 in this inaugural game, which drew large crowds. Admission to the game was 50 cents to one dollar, depending on seating location in the temporary stands. An additional dollar was charged to admit a family’s horse and buggy to the grounds.


Pasadena’s Rose Bowl stadium, built in 1922, hosted its first New Year’s Day game on January 1, 1923.

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