New Year’s Eve is one of the few nights of the year when people around the world are doing the same thing. Mostly eating, drinking, celebrating with friends and watching fireworks.
Although, if you live in Egypt, apparently you can smash glass bottles and break things on the street, too. In Chile, you get to wear yellow underwear to restore vitality to your life and you can walk the streets with a suitcase in hopes that you will travel in the new year.
In Japan, people clean their houses. In Columbia, with each stroke of midnight, families eat grapes.
Now, if you’re from Estonia, some people believe you should eat seven, nine or 12 times on New Year’s Eve, since they are lucky numbers, but always save some food for the ancestors and spirits who visit the house on that night.
If you’re a chimney sweep in Germany, you’re going to be busy because people will want to touch you — or at least rub soot on their head — for good luck.
In Russia, it’s tradition to listen to the Kremlin Clock bell ring 12 times, without saying a word, to make their secret wishes come true in the new year.
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, I remember my parents going out for dinner and dancing at New Year’s Eve parties with friends. Mom would always look fabulous in some glittery dress, with her high heels in a velvet bag and wearing her mink coat (boo hiss). They would bring home their noisemakers and hats for us to play with the next morning, although I do remember Dad yelling from the bedroom to knock it off with the horns.
We’ve never bothered going to a dance because hubby and I don’t dance properly. He accuses me of leading and I can tell you, I’m just trying to get him to move in some kind of direction. It’s too much work.
There are only two New Year’s Eves I remember with any clarity. The first was Dec. 31, 1981. We were living in an old farmhouse and invited a few friends over to pass the evening, but I was distracted. I had a six-month-old baby in a crib upstairs and this was before baby monitors. I was nursing, so no booze for me. Hence, I was no fun at all. Quite frankly, no one noticed when I slipped upstairs to go check on my son. He startled me when I looked in the crib. His big brown eyes were wide open and he gave me a cheeky grin. No wonder he was awake, with the laughing and music going on below us. He was too cute to leave alone, so I picked him up and rocked him in my rocking chair. We just enjoyed each other’s company. And then I heard the countdown from downstairs.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Happy new year!”
I was exactly where I wanted to be: in the dark, holding my baby in the early hours of 1982.
The only other New Year’s Eve I remember was 1999. That baby had graduated from high school the summer before, so he was off partying with friends that night.
Hubby and I and our daughter were watching television in anticipation of either the lights going out, planes falling from the sky or worldwide economic ruin. We’d stocked up on money, gas, groceries and storm chips, just to be safe. There was such ridiculous hype in those days of how the year 2000 might wipe us all off the map. It was a bit scary, which sounds absurd now.
The phone rang at about 11:40 p.m., which was odd. I couldn’t imagine who it would be.
“It’s me. This party is stupid. I’m coming home.”
“But you won’t make it by midnight.”
“Yes, I will.” He hung up.
I spent 20 minutes fretting that this child of mine was now roaring down country roads at top speed and he was going to land in a ditch. I could’ve crowned him.
As the clock on the television got closer to midnight, I was wringing my hands. I ran from the television to the front deck in the freezing cold to see if I could hear a car coming up the highway. With one minute left, I thought I heard a far-off engine. “Please, let it be him,” I thought.
He pulled into the driveway as we started the countdown and flew in the door just in time to join us in yelling, “... three, two, one. Happy new year!”
We were so excited and jumped around like fools. I had my whole family together! It was a great way to start a new millennium.
And surprise, surprise! No airplanes fell on our heads.
Lesley Crewe is a writer living in, and loving, Cape Breton. These are the meandering musings of a bored housewife whose ungrateful kids left her alone with a retired husband and a fat cat who couldn’t care less. Her 10th novel, Beholden, is in bookstores now.