Another New Years Eve, and I’m not going dancing.
Which is fine—I don’t like dancing. I don’t think there’s been half a dozen occasions where Sherry and I have gone to a big New Years do. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any.
We usually stay home, snack all night while we watch one or two old movies, then drink a toast and share a kiss at midnight.
When I was a child, my parents would go out to a party some years but not every year. When they went out, my Grandma would look after us kids. At midnight, we’d open the front door and bang pots and pans to ring in the new year. Some of our neighbours did that too.
I once tried to teach my own daughters about that tradition, but we were the only ones doing it. We felt a bit silly, and some of our pot lids are still dented from being beaten with a wooden spoon.
I must have been a weird kid. All my friends tuned in Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on the TV, while I looked for Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne from the Skyview Ballroom atop the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
“The Sweetest Music this Side of Heaven,” the band claimed. It genuinely was saccharine-sweet, but I loved watching a band with real trumpets, trombones, and saxophones.
In my young adult years, a friend of mine hosted an annual New Years party. We decided to make it a transcontinental affair, calling the Directory Assistance operator in every time zone as midnight rolled across the continent. We called the operator because the call was free.
The first “midnight” came at 9:30 pm Winnipeg time—that was when the clock struck 12 in Newfoundland. A couple of us dialled the number, and when the operator came on we’d wish her and her crew a happy new year from Manitoba.
We wouldn’t overstay our welcome; the operators had work to do, and their calls were surely being monitored. But it was fun to exchange a friendly greeting.
We did the same for the Maritimes at 10:00; then at 11 we’d call Ontario and Quebec as well as a few of the eastern States. We liked hearing the operators’ different accents.
And so it would go all through the night. It would be fair to say we were well in our cups by the time we called Alberta at 1:00 am, but we remained polite and courteous. There was no whooping or yelling or overtly drunken behaviour.
The last call was to Hawaii at 4:00. I remember one friend asking the operator what the weather was like. “It’s nice,” the operator said. “It’s about 80 degrees.”
My friend laughed. “Unthinkable,” he said. The operator asked him what the weather was like in Winnipeg.
“It’s 35 below,” he said.
There was a long, long pause. Then the operator replied, “Unthinkable.”
We mark the beginning of a new year on January 1, but of course Earth’s orbit around the Sun is a circle, more or less. We could pick any day to start a year.
And maybe we should. We tend to think of each numbered year as having a particular character, as being a good or bad year. But it’s never 100 per cent one way or the other. There are good times in “bad” years, and vice versa.
So a new year begins on Saturday. I wish everyone health and all kinds of happiness. But if Saturday is a disappointment, you can always start another new year on Sunday.
Ring it in with music and dancing, or with pots and pans as you choose.
Happy New Year, everyone!