Miami rang in 2013 with a definite Spanish flavor, since this New Year marks the 500th anniversary of the landing of the first Spanish explorers on the peninsula they named "Florida."

A variety of festivities were celebrated in Miami on New Year's Eve as the "Big Orange" began its slow six-hour ascent up the front of one of the city skyline's most iconic structures - until the stroke of midnight when it suddenly dropped to announce the New Year.

The Big Orange, with its customary sunglasses and wide smile, changed its official name this year to its Spanish translation, "La Gran Naranja," to ring in 2013 and so commemorate Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon's arrival in Florida five centuries ago.

Every Dec. 31, the huge orange makes its slow ascent of some 120 meters (390 feet) to the top of the Hotel InterContinental.

At midnight, as the New Year begins, the orange symbolizing the state of Florida comes plunging to the ground and sets off fireworks.

The ceremony, which city officials refer to as the "Times Square of the South," has been staged for the past 25 years.

"This is a reminder that the orange was introduced to Florida by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513" and is "a symbol of the Spanish natural heritage, of the agriculture of South Florida, of youth, unity and renewal," Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said. 

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