I have always had what could be described as a “love-hate” relationship with the New Year’s Eve holiday. On the one hand, I love to reflect back over the past 12 months to recall the good times had and the accomplishments made. But on the other hand, I hate the traditional celebration that many pursue like attending a party somewhere.
I have very little recollection of how I celebrated New Year’s in high school but I might have actually worked those evenings at a local department store or watched TV at home.
In college, I’m sure it included some level of partying but again no specific memories come to mind.
The first New Year’s after I graduated from college, I actually drove to Nashville in a snowstorm for a party at one of my fraternity brother’s house. My wife-to-be and I had recently gotten engaged and so in addition to celebrating the bringing in of the New Year; we also were showing off her engagement ring. That was actually New Year’s Eve exactly 40 years ago.
I recall after we got married and before we had kids, we would go out to dinner with some friends; that turned out not to be a very good way to celebrate. I remember one year in particular after waiting hours for a table at a downtown restaurant, we were actually being escorted to our table as the clock struck midnight. Probably one of the worst ways to bring in a new year.
After we started our family, we typically would stay home. I would usually try to fix us a nice dinner, maybe grill out a steak, and then after the kids were asleep for the night, try to stay awake to ring in the New Year.
This is probably also when I began the tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life on TV. A local channel would air it after the late news each year on December 31st and it helped me stay awake long enough so I could at least witness the start of another year. My wife on the other hand, saw no reason to stay up just for that and often would go to bed well before midnight.
Occasionally we would get together with friends for dinner at home but it was not really a celebration of any sorts.
When our two oldest kids reached an age that they could go out to parties themselves, we might just stay home alone like any other night of the year. This would also be an It’s a Wonderful Life night.
The rare party occasion for us was when we took our youngest son (age 12 at the time) with us to a New Year’s Eve party for Y2K. That was probably the biggest party night globally for adults of our generation as everyone wanted to be awake when the power went out and all those other horrible predictions came to pass. Obviously they didn’t and then after the huge build up to Y2K, the only thing interesting was the debate about whether or not a new millennium had started (should it be 2000 or 2001).
Once we became empty nesters after our third child started college, it was the first time since we had gotten married that we really had the freedom to do whatever we wanted to do. But often since we weren’t big partyers or wanted to endure the torture of trying to eat out, we would just stay at home.
We may sound like pretty boring adults but in self defense, our wedding anniversary is just three days before Christmas and we typically have a nice celebration out on or around that day. So another celebration a little over a week later just doesn’t seem that special.
And as for me, as I got older, staying awake until midnight became even more challenging as I never stayed up that late any other night of the year.
But then something wonderful began to happen. Some friends of ours who had a cabin in Boone, NC would invite us up to spend New Year’s with them.
Each year, we would drive up on the 29thor the 30thand ring in the New Year with them and some of their other friends. On New Years Eve, we would often hike during the day and then it would be a nice evening of conversation, a delicious dinner, plenty of adult beverages and then, because we were in the Eastern Time Zone, we would celebrate the New Year watching the ball drop in Times Square. Since it was technically 11:00 PM to us after we had just driven from our home in the Central Time Zone, staying awake until midnight was no longer a problem! And then we could hop to bed at a reasonable hour often before midnight in our hometown.
We did this for four years and had a really good time until sadly our friends sold their cabin.
So what will we be doing this year? The last few years we have gotten together with some friends in town for dinner at one of our homes. So that is probably what we will do this year as well. Or if not, then maybe we will just stay home and have one of those quiet nights watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
While it is always nice to pause and recognize the beginning of a new year and to think about the possibilities of what the new year will bring, for me now it is more about what great college football games I will get to see on New Year’s Day.
Forget the noisemakers and the champagne; bring on the gridiron!
Happy New Year!