Happy New Year! I love New Year’s Day. For me, it’s a chance to start over, to begin afresh, to turn the calendar to a smooth, clean, blank page and start imagining how I will fill it up as the months go by. New Year’s Day is also a chance to bring closure to the past year, and to reflect on my successes, my mistakes, the joys and the sorrows.
For many years, I kept a New Year’s journal that I would only write in once a year. Each entry began with a record of how I spent that New Year’s Eve. The rest was devoted to how the past year went, with its accomplishments, highlights and special events, along with the goals I wanted to set for the year to come. What a way to look back on your life, and what a way to see how humble most of my New Year’s Eve celebrations tend to be. I fantasize about attending glamorous parties, wearing something glittery and metallic, drinking a bubbly beverage and dancing to elegant music; in reality, 9 times out of 10 the midnight hour finds me singing “Auld Lang Syne” in my pajamas.
And there’s no problem with that, except that I keep thinking my holiday (and my whole life, really) has to look like what I see on TV. Well, it doesn’t. In fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop caring so much what the “script” says I should be doing, what I should be feeling, and whom I should be loving. I hope you can join me in ripping up that script by ringing in this New Year with my family!
I hope you’ve packed something warm, because we are headed to Minnesota. I live in Illinois with my son, but we travel home to the home of my mother and stepfather (your Holiday Grandparents) in St. Paul for the holidays. They are extremely devoted grandparents and love to dote on their grandson. When we come in, the house feels warm and usually smells like some delicious food. Please come on in and relax and join us!
My mother believes that even if you spend New Year’s Eve at home, it should still have a festive, party atmosphere, so she serves appetizers for dinner. Please help yourself to some Swedish meatballs, maybe with a bit of pickled herring on the side. Don’t forget the feta cheese and olives; it’s tricky being of both Scandinavian and Greek heritage in Minnesota, but we do our best. If you still have room for dessert, my mom will have several varieties of cookies for you to sample. Here’s my contribution this year: peppermint-flavored butter cookies dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes. Who needs champagne?
Sometimes we play a game or two on New Year’s Eve, typically charades. Sometimes we go around the room and each family member talks about a particularly memorable moment from the past year. But our favorite game is making up New Year’s resolutions for each other. Each person writes a short list of resolutions intended for everyone else on a piece of paper, folds it in half, and writes the intended family members’ name on the outside. They all go into a hat and each person draws out the resolutions written for them and reads them out loud. Sometimes the results are hilariously silly (“I resolve to wash my socks at least once a month”), and sometimes they are thinly disguised motherly advice (“I resolve to get more rest”), but it’s always fun to read them aloud.
Around this time, some of us go to bed and the diehards try to stay up until midnight. Please feel free to do whichever you wish, but I hope you’ll stay up with me and maybe write in your journal (you did bring it with you, didn’t you?).
Perhaps your 2014 was difficult; mine certainly had its moments. As we write in companionable silence, with the lights of the tree quietly twinkling in the living room, I hope that you can take this chance to bring it to a close and look forward to a bright new year in 2015, filled with fresh opportunities, new friends, and abundant love. What a great way to go to sleep on New Year’s Eve!
New Year’s morning is a really fun day in our household. There’s none of the bustle of Christmas Day, because all the presents have been opened. We can have a leisurely breakfast with plenty of coffee, in our pajamas. My mother (or sometimes I) will be busy in the kitchen preparing Vasilopita, a sweet Greek egg bread that is traditionally baked for January 1. The baker hides a coin inside, and whoever gets the coin in their slice has special good luck in the coming year. Somehow my son has managed to get the coin almost every year of his life; this year, I have a feeling you are going to get the coin—and when you do, I hope you’ll carry it in your pocket as a reminder that you are valued, you are loved, there is a place and a family and a community for you, and you can have an abundantly happy life without following society’s “script.”
Thank you for joining my family to ring in 2015. I wish you joy and peace in this New Year, and the fulfillment of your dearest wishes.