Friday, December 29, 2006

Article: Happy New Year!

The holiday isn’t over for my family. We eschew the standard celebrations to focus on the turning of the calendar. As the glittering ball falls in Times Square--delayed one hour--we blow horns and pop poppers. By 12:10, the floor is completely covered with confetti. Then we sit down to exchange gifts.

It wasn’t always this way. I was raised non-Christian. By that I mean that while we didn’t believe in any gods or supernatural phenomena, our heritage was Christian. My mother’s family was some sort of German Protestant and my father’s was Greek Orthodox. My grandparents even had me baptized. But neither my parents nor later my stepfather were religious. Still we put up a bright aluminum Christmas tree every year and celebrated in the Christian manner.

I continued the tradition with my first husband who hadn’t given religion enough thought to know what he was. When Coral was born on December 23rd, I put her bassinet under the tree for a Christmas photo. The kids’ father didn’t have much of a sense of humor about social norms and Christmas was on the boring side while we were together. After our divorce, it got more fun. One year I hid the presents and told the kids Santa was sick. The Easter Bunny stood in for him but didn’t understand that the presents were to be left under the tree.

Then I met Rick who is non-Jewish. He is, however, more Jewish than I am Christian. He said it made him uncomfortable celebrating Christmas. He was raised Jewish and his mother and sister are followers of the religion. They wouldn’t like him celebrating Christmas. It didn’t matter to me so we switched over to Chanukah.

Chanukah is a beautiful holiday. The kids loved eight days of gifts. Candle races were a big event each night as we tried to guess which would last the longest. But most nights of Chanukah fall on workdays and Rick’s work ethic is warped. He couldn’t make it home at dusk for Chanukah dinner. After a few years I told him we weren’t celebrating his holiday if he wasn’t there. We were switching back to Christmas.

Rick couldn’t get home in time for Chanukah but neither could he celebrate the Christian holiday. We examined our options. I loved the thought of celebrating the solstice. The official start of winter, to me the solstice symbolizes its end. The days grow longer bringing the hope of summer Coral opposed the move since December 21st, two days before her birthday, seemed no better than two days after. Even when she was small she resented the proximity of a major celebration to her special day.

The solstice was out anyway because it falls before Christmas so we’d have to face awful crowds while shopping. Also, it could fall on a workday--we knew that didn’t work.

The logical choice was New Year’s Eve. Gift shopping could be done the week after Christmas, taking advantage of sales, and New Year’s Day is a holiday. We set up our own unique tradition. We decorate the living room top-to-bottom with ribbons, streamers, New Year’s banners and a silver ball hanging from the fan in the middle of the room. While we wait for midnight we play games, have silly string or marshmallow gun fights, race windup toys and other crazy stuff.

At midnight we shoot off as many poppers as we can. We clink glasses full of champagne or sparkling cider. We yell and hoot. We turn the fan on and start the ball spinning--normally trailing a heavy cargo of silly string and streamers. Then we get down to the serious business of present opening.

Everyone spends the night at our house. It keeps them safely off the road and allows us to continue celebrating in the morning. The new year dawns on a day of play and family fun. It’s the perfect holiday for us. I hope y’all enjoy yours as much. Have a happy and safe new year!

Photo: New Year's decorations before the comencement of celebrations.
Photo: Everyone has to wear a silly hat. Here are Coral and Celeste comparing choices.
Photo: Monica and Celeste divide up the poppers for the big moment.
Photo: Every year I take a photo of Philip and Coral holding the photo I took of them the year before. The new photo then goes in front of the old photo in the same frame. If you look deeply enough, you can see all the way back in time.
Photo: I'd like to think Celeste regrets her part in the making of this mess but I'm sure she doesn't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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