Good riddance to the old year – finally!

January 3, 2021

Now that the dog has eaten all the Christmas wrapping, the fire department eventually opened the fireplace flue and the relatives’ cars have been towed out of the mud, it is time to turn our attention to the new year. It’s one of my favorite holidays.

Oh, it’s not just the chance to wear a stupid-looking paper hat, blow an annoying horn in someone’s face and make ridiculous, unrealistic resolutions. But now that I think about it, I guess maybe it is.

There is something about New Year’s Eve that seems to have some disconnect from the real world. On the one hand, we are happy to see the year end, but on the other hand we have no idea what “Auld Lang Syne” means. Yet we can’t stop singing that song when the clock strikes midnight. You can forget your spouse’s name or where you parked your car, but you will never forget the lyrics, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind ...”

It could mean that you should forget old friends, they are so annoying anyway, plus they know a lot about your past. Or it might have something to do with not forgetting them, but you can’t because they are like a broken record, calling and calling, sending emails and Facebooking. It never ends.

Anyway, this is a holiday steeped in many traditions and rituals. OK, the main ritual is Alka-Seltzer broken gently into a glass of water the next day; it helps if you genuflect and cross yourself first.

I’m not accusing anyone of drinking too much; however, you may also need two people to hold your head up to the glass. They say that even the noise from a single bubble surfacing is so painful it has driven people stark raving mad, running out into traffic and claiming there are knives sticking through their eyeballs. Of course, most of them can’t  remember where they left their eyeballs the night before.

I do recall New Year’s Eve being portrayed as very glamorous, with dinner and dancing in a supper club. Women wore elegant dresses and everyone drank champagne or martinis. People drank hard liquor back then. And I mean it was so hard, after a few whiskey and ginger ales, you couldn’t penetrate a person’s skull with a blowtorch. But it was the time of Frank Sinatra and the big bands. Patrons had names like Johnny Leg Breaker and Sal the Enforcer. At midnight everyone embraced, and believe it or not, you actually knew the person you smacked on the lips.

I’m not sure what the traditions are today, especially with the pandemic restrictions, but I do know the event is taken so seriously that hundreds of strangers used to stand in line for hours behind a police barricade in Times Square to see a crystal ball drop, even though those strangers hadn’t had a potty break in the last 24 hours. 

The one tradition that was the most problematic for many people, though, was that you had to have a date on New Year’s Eve. If you were single, you could never admit that you were home alone; it’s almost un-American. People would go to great lengths to pretend they had plans. Department stores reported major thefts of mannequins around that time of year, as party goers snatched them for fake dates. People would bring strangers they met on the freeway to the office party, and of course the ultimate in creativity, cut-out cardboard people to place in the windows to prove they had a blowout New Year’s Eve get-together with friends, even if they are cardboard.

Today, it is OK to be alone and stay healthy, while keeping others safe.

But check it out – the best tradition is simply wishing someone a Happy New Year – and good riddance to 2020!

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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