Cape Gazette
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Around Town

New Year's Eve traditions have evolved over the years

By Nancy Katz | Dec 31, 2012

New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite holidays. Oh, it’s not just the chance to wear a paper hat, blow an annoying horn in someone’s face and dance the Mashed Potato. Now that I think about it, I guess maybe it is.

Yet, there is something about New Year’s Eve that seems to have some disconnect from the real world.  On the one hand, we are happy to see the year end, but on the other hand, we have no idea what, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind” means. And yet we can’t stop singing that song when the clock strikes midnight. You can forget your spouse’s name or where you parked your car, but you will never forget the lyrics to that song.

It could mean that you should forget old friends, they are so annoying anyway, plus they know a lot about your past, or it might have something to do with not forgetting them, but you can’t because they are like broken records, calling and sending emails and facebooking. It never ends.

This is a holiday steeped in many traditions and rituals. Okay, the main ritual is Alka Seltzer broken gently into a glass of water the next day; it helps if you genuflect and cross yourself before this rite. I’m not accusing anyone of drinking too much, but you may also need two people to hold your head up to the glass.

They say that even the noise from a single bubble surfacing is so painful it has driven people stark raving mad, running out in traffic and claiming there are knives sticking through their eyeballs.  

Of course, most of them can’t  remember where they left their eyeballs the night before.

I do recall that old tradition of New Year’s Eve being portrayed as very glamorous, with dinner and dancing in a supper club. Women wore elegant dresses and everyone drank champagne or martinis.

People drank hard liquor back then. And I mean it was so hard after a few whiskeys and ginger ales, you couldn’t penetrate a person’s skull with a blowtorch. But it was the time of Frank Sinatra and the big bands. Patrons had names like Johnny Leg Breaker and Sal the Enforcer. At midnight everyone embraced, and believe it or not, you actually knew the person you smacked on the lips.

I’m not sure what the traditions are today, but I do know it is taken so seriously that hundreds of strangers will stand in line for hours behind a police barricade in Times Square to see a crystal ball drop even though those strangers haven’t had a potty break in the last 24 hours.

The one tradition that was the most problematic for many people was that you had to have a date on New Year’s Eve.  

If you were single, you could never admit that you were home alone; well, it’s just almost un-American. People would go to great lengths to pretend they had plans.

Department stores reported major thefts of mannequins around that time of year, as partygoers snatched them for fake dates. People would bring strangers they met on the freeway to the office party, and of course the ultimate in creativity, cut-out cardboard people to place in the windows to prove they had been planning a blowout New Year’s Eve get-together with friends.

I’m not sure this tradition still holds, though. With all the technology today, you can fax a date or simply Photoshop one; no one looks up from their iPad, iPhone or computer anyway.

But check it out - the best tradition is simply wishing someone a Happy New Year.

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