New Year’s Eve traditions evolved over my lifetime. Although a festive holiday, giving hope for the upcoming year, the celebrations have changed. No one family member or close friend has owned it. Quite frankly, the month leading up to January 1st is a marathon of cooking, shopping, cleaning, and visiting. We are all exhausted by December 31st.
As a child, my family stayed in Brooklyn in my grandma’s flat from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. A week of playing with cousins, visiting museums, and perhaps seeing a Rockette show filled the week. But it was mostly playing with cousins by running amok up and down the walk-up, creating a lot of noise, and ignoring Grandma’s suggestion to play charades. Aunt Rosey, who lived below Grandma, pounded on her ceiling with a broomstick hollering for us wild animals to behave.
As I grew older, the tight flat made camping on the floors difficult. My parents sent my sister Mary and me to sleep over the other grandmother’s home on West 9th Street. No other cousins were there, and we were not allowed to play like wild animals. We were happily picked up right after breakfast.
On New Year’s Eve, we stayed up until midnight at the cousin-filled grandma’s flat, watching Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve Show on the black and white TV. When the ball dropped in Time Square, we ran outside or hung out of the front window blowing party horns and clanking and ratchet noisemakers.
Versions of this New Year’s Eve routine followed until my grandma retired as a librarian. She moved out east on Long Island to Sayville to be near her brood. Grandma packed everyone in the small house for Christmas. New Year’s Eve became a free holiday.
My husband, Matt, and I hosted parties with friends in our first Sayville home. We sang drunken versions of the Beatles White Album in the finished basement, while the children slept under cozy coats on my bed.
After a while, that faded. We moved from Sayville to a further east Remsenburg home. New Year’s Eve became a being a wait up for the kids to come home from their parties or go out to pick them up night. When the last of my girls started college, we move back home to Sayville. Matt and I accepted invites to celebrations. We ate and danced until midnight, toasted to a happy new year at the stroke of midnight, and ate and drank some more —lots of fun.
These days, I do not have the stamina to stay up late dancing and celebrating. Matt and I are satisfied to stay home watching The Twilight Zone Marathon ( now commercial-free on Netflix), and the last ten minutes of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve hosted by Ryan Seacrest. We count down as the oversized crystal ball makes its way down the pole on Times Square and clink a glass of prosecco, then collapse into bed soon after.
This New Year’s Day, I decided to invite friends over for a nibble and toast to a new year and a new decade of hope and action for peace and love. My door opens in the afternoon, and although the Beatles may play over a Pandora playlist, the afternoon will not be too noisy or rowdy.
Happy New Year—New Decade, Everyone. It’s up to you and me to make it happy and great.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.