What’s so special about New Year’s Eve?

For a number of years now I have not stayed up to see the New Year in. I’d rather sleep and I am led to wonder, “What’s so special about New Year’s Eve?”

Oh, I didn’t start out that way. As a kid I thought it was wonderful the few times my parents let me stay up late enough to welcome the new year. No party; just stay up late. My parents were not partiers so the concept of celebrating on New Year’s Eve didn’t occur to me until I discovered that other folks did it.

People have been partying on New Year’s Eve for a long time; like a 4,000-year long time. The first known new year parties were in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. Back then the vernal equinox in mid-March was believed to be the start of the new year so celebrations were held in early spring.

According to history.com those celebrations would put today’s parties to shame. The website described an 11-day festival where the ancient Mesopotamians performed rituals, celebrated their pagan gods, either crowned a new king or allowed their old king to remain on the throne and who knows what else.

New Year’s Eve parties began for me when I was a teenager, though in the mid-1960s those parties were pretty tame. Pass-the-grapefruit was about as wild as we got.

Early adulthood meant actually going out to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. Early in our marriage Cindy and I joined another couple at a night spot where live entertainment had been advertised. We were not surprised when a cover charge was levied at the door but we were surprised when the live entertainment was a topless go-go dancer.

My sweet Baptist wife was uncomfortable with the situation but I told her we didn’t want to offend the dancer by leaving right away. For many years thereafter I teased her about the time she took me to a topless go-go joint on New Year’s Eve. She just rolled her eyes.

A group of friends began gathering on New Year’s Eve for an evening of swapping stories and grazing on goodies. We moved away from that community in 1974.

With two small children our New Year’s Eve celebrations changed but we were still young enough to stay up and watch other folks celebrate on television. Then, at 12:01 a.m., a New Year’s kiss and a decent night of sleep brought in the New Year.

Several times a couple from our church and their three children came to our house on New Year’s Eve. The kids played while we adults visited and as soon as the clock struck 12 midnight they packed up and headed home.

These days we meet on New Year’s Eve with two other couples who are the remnants of that early 1970s group of friends. The evening consists of a meal, munchies and warm fellowship. Old friends are good friends and we thoroughly enjoy this annual gathering. We are all now post-retirement age and for the past few years the party has broken up well in advance of midnight.

New Year’s traditions go well beyond celebrations. Making New Year’s resolutions is a big deal for many people.

I have made New Year’s resolutions many times but usually give up after a week or two. This year I have resolved to help all my friends gain ten pounds so I look thinner.

Another New Year’s Eve tradition is a toast to the new year. I learned the hard way that alcohol makes me stupid so if we were to give a toast at our New Year’s Eve party it would be with diet cola. Caffeine-free, of course.

Some folks like to count down the final seconds of the old year and kiss in the new year. I have no problems with that.

And some people like to ring in the new year with at least one verse of “Auld Lang Syne.” This isn’t saying much but I can kiss better than I can sing.

Years ago American columnist Bill Vaugh wrote, “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

This year I’m saying, “On New Year’s Eve I’m staying up late; not to see the New Year in but to be sure we see 2020 out.”

Happy New Year!


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