Well, by now you have been patient through my old-fashioned Halloween traditions; sighed at my simplistic Thanksgiving traditions; and (insert reaction word here) over my sketchy Christmas traditions. I can promise you that New Year’s Eve will be no more dramatic than all the rest. But if you can stand one more corny story, then read on…
We don’t have New Year’s Eve parties, per se. We celebrate; this is true. And my daughters will often include their friends in the celebration. But there is no champagne or midnight kiss. We will pull out the CDs we have accumulated over the year and relive the year in song. We will tell stories of what we remember – our funniest moments, our saddest, and our most memorable. That can take a while depending on how many friends have accumulated and how hard or easy it is to relive. We always leave that “pass” option open, just in case someone needs an “out”. We snack – little smokies in BBQ sauce, cheese cubes, veggie tray, meatballs or chicken wings, chips and dip. We watch Dick Clark or some other celebrities’ New Year’s Eve special so that we can be on hand when the “ball drops” at midnight in Times Square. We are standing by the front door, ready to run out into the night to greet the New Year as we count down those last seconds…ten, nine, eight, seven, six…and we make our way onto the front porch, one person hanging in the doorway to count down the final seconds…five, four, three…edging into the front yard… two, one….
Happy New Year!!!
We are yelling at the top of our lungs, “Happy New Year!” as we beat on pots and pans with metal spoons and clang a pastry cutter like a triangle, crashing pot lids together like cymbals. The racket is absolutely mind-numbing. We laugh as lights flip on in nearby houses. (Most of our neighbors are elderly couples. Thank goodness they remember what it was like to have children and they have become used to our traditions as years have passed.) Other neighbors are setting off fireworks and we squeal as they light up the sky. A particularly pretty display will inspire another round of pot-lid cymbal crashes. We laugh and hug and scream until our noses and fingers are frozen from the frosty night air. Then we rush back into the house for hot chocolate or warm cider and homemade cookies. We might watch a bit more of the televised New Year’s Eve programs before wandering off to bed.
Okay, so if you didn’t think we were strange before, you do now, huh? I don’t really know why the “pots and pans” tradition started. I know that my mother was afraid of fireworks and that my father worked at night, which meant he wasn’t around to set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I know that in the city where my aunt lived, fireworks weren’t allowed, and sometimes we were there on New Year’s Eve. I have a feeling that sometimes money was also a factor. Pots and pans are in the kitchen and they don’t cost any extra to take out of the cabinet on New Year’s Eve. In all the years we have been beating on them, we haven’t dented one yet, so they don’t have to be replaced. Low cost, no overhead, no maintenance. Cheap entertainment. What ever the reason, they have hung on over time and so now, I use them as cheap entertainment and noise makers with my own children.
About four years ago, I got the chance to go out with friends on New Year’s Eve. I really hadn’t done that since my oldest was born, and it sounded like fun, so I hired a babysitter – the daughter of my boss – and I dressed up and I went. But it wasn’t long before I found myself rather bored with the evening. Everyone was trying hard to see who could get drunk the fastest and seeing who they could hook up with for that midnight kiss.
I had told my babysitter that I wouldn’t be home until after midnight, so you can imagine her surprise when I showed up an hour early. I asked her if she would mind staying until after midnight anyway, and offered to pay her for the extra time, because I wanted to ring in the New Year with my kids. She didn’t mind, and that evening she took part in our family traditions. When it came time to beat the pots and pans in the front yard, she had her pot and metal spoon in hand, standing on the front porch. But I could tell that she was a bit hesitant. This was a strange custom for her. So I leaned over and whispered to her, “You aren’t in your neighborhood. The kids here don’t go to the same school as you. No one here knows you but us. And no one is going to tell any of your friends – so have a little fun.” She smiled, as if she had been given permission, and was out in the front yard whooping it up with the rest of the kids, having a great time. Funny what joy simple tasks can bring when we put our inhibitions aside and allow ourselves to do the truly “silly”.
Tomorrow night, that is what I will be doing. Laughing with my daughters and their friends in the front yard as we beat on pots and pans, waking up the neighborhood, so that we all can greet the New Year together. I only hope that all of you will be having as much fun as I will!
Happy New Year! May you have a wonderful 2004!!!