Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

When I was a kid, I usually spent New Year's Eve at my maternal grandparents unless my parents were having a house party - then I got to stay home and try and stay awake till midnight. I usually fell asleep, but woke up to off key strains of "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight.

The first New Year's Eve I really remember was December 31, 1966. I was 9 years old. It was leading into the beginning of Canada's year long celebration of its centennial. I was staying with my grandparents. The church that they went to was having a late night candlelight walk and carol service with a couple of other churches in town. I think we met about 11:00 at one of the churches and got a candle and song sheets. My grandpa and I walked down the streets with a few dozen other people, singing carols and also stopping for moments of reflection and prayer. It was a little strange, as no one shouted "Happy New Year!" at midnight, but it was also okay, as that was the first year I was allowed to stay up past midnight. When we got home, grandma had fresh cookies and hot chocolate waiting for us.

Most of my teen years and twenties, were involved with a Christian young peoples group, so I never really celebrated the night. We would hold game nights at the church or a small house party, but it was more of a way to avoid the whole indulgence and party scene. The stroke of midnight was not really important and often slipped by without notice or very little fanfare.

There was one year in the late 1970's that I thought I might actually have a real New Year's Eve celebration. The guy I was seeing, said he'd be over New Year's Eve. I made us dinner and we listened to Christian music while we talked and played board games. I wasn't expecting anything romantic as we weren't that serious, but I assumed we'd at least bring in the New Year together with a hug. Around 11:00, he announced that he had to get going as it was getting late and there was a church service the next morning. I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. He explained that New Year's Eve was a pagan celebration and therefore he could have no part of it! Ouch! That was the first year I rang in the year by myself.

I moved one New Year's Eve day in the mid 1980's. It was bitterly cold and by the time we were done I was exhausted and starting to sniffle. I caught a nasty cold! I've also been storm stayed on the farm a few times over New Year's. I've also been kept awake by late night revelers in various apartment blocks over the years.

In the early 1990's I lived in a building that was 2/3 disabled and 1/3 able bodied tenants. We had a large social area that was perfect for parties. There was even a mirror ball hanging from the vaulted ceiling. The tenants association would organize the parties and a tenant or a friend of a tenant would play DJ with the sound system. Since it was a private gathering, it was B.Y.O.B. (bring your own booze). The mix was provided as well as snacks and a buffet style cold plate was set out after midnight. Those were fun parties, usually less than a hundred people and you knew almost everyone there.

Once I moved to the Village, I watched the fireworks display at The Forks from our roof top. The novelty of that wore off after the first few years - especially on the colder nights.

For many years now, I have chosen to spend New Year's Eve alone. I've watched movies or listened to music.. I take time to reflect on the year that has been and what I have learned and experienced during the past twelve months. Hopefully, I have I grown as a person.

I know a lot of people look forward to going out and celebrating the beginning of a fresh new year, but it doesn't really appeal to me. There are a lot of unrealistic expectations around the night. It is supposed to be one of the most romantic nights of the year, but it rarely lives up to the unrealistic expectations that so many people place on it. The restaurants, clubs, bars and countless parties are crowded, noisy, and over priced. For some reason, people are willing to pay more, for the privilege of eating so-so food, tepid drinks and socializing with a lot of people they've never met before.

Maybe someday I'll celebrate the night again, but if I did, it will be a more intimate evening at home with someone special who won't disappear before midnight!

If you are celebrating tonight, please be safe. Drink responsibly and make arrangements ahead of time for a safe ride home.

May the coming year bring you love, laughter, peace, health and prosperity.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

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