Yo! Here we go again with these thoughts about New Year’s Eve.
In the good old days, we always celebrated New Year’s Eve at home with our family and friends. It was also a celebration of having survived one year and looking forward to a better one to come.
We would have tons of food to eat. Relatives and guests arrived early. They always brought something, for it is an Italian custom never to go visiting with Empty Hands.
Promptly at 11:30 p.m., the television was tuned to Guy Lombardo. It would not be New Year without hearing his soft, graceful music. And don’t even think of changing the channel! Grand-Pop Achille or Dad would promptly scold you and insist on returning the station to Guy Lombardo.
Anticipation grew as the witching hour approached. When the ball finally fell and the New Year had arrived, we would kiss (or shake hands with) each of our relatives and guests. We wished them good luck. A coin was exchanged; one with the other, to insure the recipient always had money during the coming year. These coins were never to be spent, as they represented a gesture of affection. I still have most of the coins I received over the years.
After this ritual, everyone would hurry out into the street to join with the other neighbors in making as much noise as possible, with anything available. Spoons were banged on pot lids, horns were blown, and anything else used that could create a din. We would shout, “Happy New Year” to each other through all the noise (as if no one knew it was a new year). This lasted 10 to 15 minutes. We then returned to our home cold, tired and hoarse.
There we continued to eat, converse with everyone and generally feel good about having survived another year. The kids were allowed to stay up. Big deal; for by about 2 a.m., most of us had fallen asleep; either on the floor on the couch, or on someone’s lap. It wasn’t until everyone was stuffed, the perishable food put in the icebox, the dishes washed and put away, that Mom and the other women finally got to rest. It had been a long and fun-filled night (and morning), but we had to get some sleep. We had to get up early to watch the Mummers Parade
Our New Year’s Eve celebration is not like this anymore. Grand-Pop Achille, Dad and many of our relatives have passed away. We “kids” now have our own families and circle of friends with whom we celebrate the New Year. The food we once consumed to excess, now gives us agita. Going out to nightclubs costs more than we can afford, so we still stay home on New Year’s Eve. We still invite relatives and guests to our home, but most of them are as busy with their own lives as we are with ours. We still watch the ball come down on Times Square on TV, but Guy Lombardo has been replaced by a rock-music carnival our kids insist on watching. Who are we to argue with them? We shouldn’t be old-fashioned.
Should we still exchange the kisses, greetings and coins at the stroke of midnight as we once did? We still go outside, but there isn’t that much going on outside either. People don’t run outside to make noise and greet each other like they used to. Maybe they think it is now unsophisticated. Maybe they don’t care enough about their neighbors to wish them a Happy New Year. Maybe they don’t even know their neighbors. Whatever the reason, it just isn’t the same as it was.
On this coming New Year’s Eve, midnight will still signal a celebration that we will try to celebrate as we once knew it; but as time goes by, the happiness that once was there will be gone. Gone – but not forgotten. I hope the future generations will not lose this precious memory. New Year’s Eve can be one of the most-memorable times of the year and of your life. Enjoy it to the fullest.