Fast Away the Old Year Passes

New Year’s is the strangest of all the strange days we celebrate. Our system of marking days, weeks, months, years seems so completely random and arbitrary to me. What was that Pope Gregory the 13th thinking anyway?

Other calendars, like the Islamic calendar follow the phases of the moon. The Persian calendar follows the solar cycle. Traditional Chinese and Hindu calendars follow a luni-solar cycle. Those all kind of makes sense.

I don’t know what the Gregorian calendar follows. Nothing, I think. It would make sense to me to have the year end maybe at the end of March because then it’s spring and everything starts anew. Instead our year just starts in the middle of winter – a week after the most hectic insanity of the year.

And if Christmas wasn’t enough of a stressor, New Year’s Eve is the ultimate high pressure event. First of all there are a lot of superstitions around how you ring in the New Year. Superstitions that imply that what you do as the year flips over, sets the scene for the entire next year:

  •  Kissing at midnight —  kiss your loved ones at midnight to ward off relationship disaster in the coming year.
  •  Full cupboards – your home must be well-stocked with food to ensure a year of plenty.
  •  No debts – pay all bills and debts before midnight or you’ll face financial ruin in the new year.
  •  First Footing – the first person to cross your threshold in the new year should, ideally be a dark-haired handsome male. Do not, whatever you do,  let a female cross your doorway first or disaster will follow all year. There are a whole list of other First Footing dos and don’t which you can find here.
  •  Nothing leaves the house – do not allow anything to leave your home until something new is brought in (this includes taking out the garbage)
  •  No washing – don’t do laundry, don’t do the dishes or clean anything on New Year’s or you’ll wash away all your luck. (Ya, this one is going to be tough)
  •  Letting the old year out – fling open all your doors and windows at midnight to let the old year escape and the new year enter.
  •   Wear New Clothes – on New Year’s to ensure lots of good luck – make them red for extra luck.
  •  Dance outside – dancing outside at midnight around a tree will bring love and prosperity throughout the upcoming year.
  • Make noise – Make lots and lots of noise at midnight to scare off all the evil spirits of the past year.

Aside from all these superstitions, there is also the expectation that we MUST do something special on New Year’s Eve or we’re a lame-oh. And,  that something special MUST be done with a date. Not to have a date on NYE is just  sadder than anything. (But not nearly as sad as having a date you don’t really like all that much and being stuck with him for the whole long, long, long night. And, damn if NYE isn’t the longest friggin’ night because you can’t just yawn and go home after dinner — NO, you have to stay until at least 12:01.)

One of my most memorable NYE’s was the year I was editor of my university’s student newspaper. There was a conference of all Canadian university student newspaper editors during the week between Christmas and New Year’s up in North Bay. The snow was over the top of our thighs and the temperatures hovered around minus 50. Around 7:00 pm on NYE, as we were all in our hotel rooms getting ready for dinner, a fire broke out in the hotel.

I helped evacuate people by walking the halls and knocking on doors. Everyone was sent to the golf club house at the extreme rear of the hotel’s property. By the time I’d worked my way through a few hallways, it was time to leave the hotel and I wasn’t allowed back to my room. I had no shoes or coat, so I grabbed a few table cloths from the dining room table and wrapped up in those. I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk all the way to the golf club house in table cloths, so the fire fighters parked me in the front seat of one of the  fire engines in the parking lot.

Meanwhile, all my peers back at the golf club house thought I’d perished in the fire and held a little memorial service for me. Being journalist types they really got into the tragic sensationalism of my untimely loss and kept themselves busy composing fantastic stories for their newspapers in their heads. So, of course they were mega pissed off when the firefighters later brought me to the golf club house completely uncharred — albeit shoeless.

Eventually, I was mostly forgiven for not getting burnt to a crisp and we all celebrated a succession of New Years as it turned midnight in the various time zones represented by the various delegates from across the country.

In the wee hours of the new year we were bussed to the only other hotel in town and ended up sleeping 4 and 5 to a room forcing us to share beds with people we’d only just met that week. (Hi Kevin. Rrrworrrrr!!!)

What was your most memorable New Year’s Eve? Are you planning anything spectacular this year?

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30 responses to “Fast Away the Old Year Passes

  1. I don’t think I have one specific memorable New Years Day. They all tend to blend together, especially since the most we’ve ever done is stay up late and watch the parties and count down on TV. Any more, we don’t even make a point of staying up. If one of us is up, it’d probably be me — just like any other night after midnight, I’m the one more likely to be up. That’s not to say that I stay up late often — just that I’m the one that is most likely — but most likely, I’ll be in bed…., even on Thursday night …, by the time the clock strikes 12.

    The one New Year that does stand out is January 1, 2000.

    You know — the year that the Y2K Chicken Little warned us about — the year that the Y2K sky didn’t fall.

    It was, of course, the new Millennium, too, so that helped make it stand out.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! 😉

  2. I think I’m turning into a NYE humbug … looking likely this will be the third consecutive year at home, alone with the dog. Just to rub it in, I might go to bed early. Bah.

  3. You may (or may not, I’m not sure) be happy to know that that hotel fire has since passed into CUP legend. I read that and instantly thought “Oh, she was there? Cool!”

    Incidentally, the conference has since moved to mid-January, in response to one-too-many hotel rooms being trashed on New Year’s Eve.

  4. Actually the most memorable was the night of 1999-2000. The weather was mild – I was forced (as I had no particular plans) to go with the family to Queens Landing for dinner. After the typical shouting match – headed home just around midnight – took a phone call and rode my BIKE up to Toronto to see a friend.
    Windscreen up and grip heaters set on MAXIMUM. Got there at 1 am.
    The Ride was FANTASMAGORICAL.

  5. I guess the most memorable NYE was after my major car accident when my buddy (also in the accident) was wheeled into my hospital room so we could hang together for the event. I think Dad had snuck us in a little alcohol earlier. We were both a little nervous about drinking it what with all the painkillers we were taking for all our broken bones, but we may have had a few sips. We threw ice chips around the room as we watched the ball drop. We were so freaking happy to just be alive. We were 19.

    You said:
    “Not to have a date on NYE is just sadder than anything.”

    I thought that was a Valentine’s Day rule.

    And I’ve never heard of any of that good luck/bad luck stuff. All I’ve ever heard was that you are supposed to eat black eyed peas and those are good anytime, so why take a chance?

  6. Funny you should ask… cuz I was just thinking of my most memorable NY Eve the other day…
    Maple Leaf Gardens. 1979-1980. Rush and Max Webster on stage. Smoke so thick that all you needed to do is breathe to get a buzz. I was there with a couple of very hot girls and some of my best friends at the time.
    Ah, to be 17 again!
    This year – gonna get together with a couple of neighbours, eat smoked salmon, sip some Cardhu and try to stay conscious ’till 2010!
    Best of fortune and health to you and XUP Jr.! And the same to all of those who post comments on your blog! Together you all have provided me with many a moment of chuckles and thoughtfulness over 2009. Carry on! 🙂

  7. Mike – I’ve spent many, many NYE’s fast asleep by midnight. I’m not even sure I can still stay awake that long. I guess we’ll find out. The 1999-2000 NYE a lot of us with young kids stayed home because we didn’t know what to expect. Then we had a big pot-luck brunch the next day with all the kids and grandparents and neighbours. It was one of the best NY celebrations ever. We all got to bed early, didn’t have to pay a sitter and still had a barrel of fun.

    Quack – Hey – at least you’ll be with those who love you best – you and George. It’s really just another day, blown all out of proportion by hotels and restaurants and TV.

    Dave – Really? Legend? Way cool. All this time I never knew I was part of a legend. Does the legend mention the crazy chick wrapped in tablecloths who they thought had perished? You’re an editor with the Fulcrum now? Have you been to the blog before or did you find it because of the CUP link? In any case, welcome.

    Lebowski – (Hey, you spelled your name wrong) And, wow. That sounds like a memorable, if slightly insane way to spend the first hour of the new year/century.

    Geewits – So now that you know about all these superstitions, do you feel obligated to follow them all? I didn’t know about some of these either, but now they’re in the back of my head and I feel like I have to go grocery shopping on Thursday morning, just in case – even though I survived all these years without great disaster without stocking up the larder on NYE. A little knowledge is indeed, a dangerous thing.

    Trashee – Aw, thanks. All the best in 2010 to you and your blog family and real family. And ya, NYE as a youngster, when midnight, was the time when you just started to wake up.. those were the days.

  8. Geez worse than no date on New years eve is having a date with someone you’d been out with many times and then though she kissed others happy new years refused to kiss me. Now that hurt.

  9. I can’t remember a single memorable NYE in 51 years. Having a fire in a hotel would do it though. Good times!

    For the last several years, we have gone to dinner at a friend’s place, with about 10 other people and we have a pot luck, some forced conversation until midnight, the obligatory sip of sparkling wine and then bail fairly quickly thereafter. This year however, family exigencies have caused our host not to be here and we have been talking about “what should we do now that we are FREE?” And to our ever lasting lameness, we have not come up with anything else to do. Our councillor Rick Chiarelli hosts a NYE party in the park, complete with fireworks, so we will likely get dressed in the woolies and go outside and do that. One year, we will book a cruise or something. Maybe. This whole travelling thing has become annoying, what with underwear bombers now. Or as my friend Fred Ennis calls him, The Knickerbomber.

  10. I didn’t know about any of those NYE customs except for the kissing thing at midnight. But now I’m going to end up all crazy on NYE trying to do them all and ward off bad luck! Gee, thanks XUP.

    I’d have to say my most memorable NYEs were in my teens. I think that’s because (a) the possibility of a kiss was very exciting then, (b) my parents were very strict and as a result the evening required an enormous amount of advance planning and subterfuge to pull it off, and (c) drinking when you’re underage is always a bit of fun. Come to think of it — all three reasons boil down to one: it involved things I wasn’t allowed to do. Although I say they were “memorable” — I don’t actually remember much of them due to an excess of item (c). But the stories the next day were a hoot!

    Now I just watch a movie with hubby and go to bed well before midnight.

  11. My family always threw the door open. I did this one memorable New Year’s Eve (I had already slid my car into a ditch) with the temp in the -20’s C and it snowed inside when the cold dry outdoor air hit the humid indoor air.
    This year I intend to be in bed, but will probably still be up working through the official bio of Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Am at page 400 and something at present, with about the same distance to go. Got two copies of this tome for Christmas; am looking forward to exchanging one and having a grand time choosing the replacement.

  12. I had to skip over your post because I have no plans for New Years Eve, I don’t want to do anything special, and I don’t want to have those silly superstitions stuck in my head. Just knowing, for example, that *some people* think breaking a mirror gives you bad luck gives pause to many people, even if they say they don’t believe it themselves.

    – RG>

  13. Bandobras – Really? Well! How rude. Perhaps she was taking great (and perhaps excessive) pains not to give you the wrong impression of the status of your friendship.

    Julia – Yes, travelling is just no fun at all anymore. They have to figure out something because it’s getting ridiculous. Could they not do a very rigorous screening (similar to when you get a federal government top secret security clearance) for when you get a passport? Then you’re cleared and they won’t have to do much of anything at the airport. Because who wants to travel if you can’t even go to the toilet on a plane anymore or keep your purse on your seat with you? Geeze. I’m amazed we get to keep our clothes on.

    Julie – I know, eh? I had the same reaction when I was rounding up these superstitions. (Shit! Now I have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. And – where the hell am I going to find a tall, handsome dark haired man to visit me in the new year…and if I knew such a man why wouldn’t I already be spending NYE with him? Ha ha)

    Mary – I went to Chapters yesterday and spent my Chapters gift cards. It was more fun than Christmas itself!

    Grouchy – Well, thanks for commenting anyway. And I hope you enjoy your evening. And you’re right…I now have all these dumb superstitions stuck in my head forever– along with all the dumb superstitions my mother drilled into my growing up.

  14. Nothing that specific, I’m afraid. But if you talk to people about Nash history, there’s a good chance someone will mention the hotel fire.

    And I’ve actually been reading a while (I have Blogawa in my Google Reader)… I’m the guy behind the rarely-updated Ottawa Project and an occasional contributor to Spacing Ottawa. I just don’t seem to comment often, here. 🙂

  15. I was in Ottawa on Parliament Hill for the Millenium NYE.

    Worst New Years of my Life.

    It was freezing cold, and I was sick. And the celebrations were the LAMEST I’d ever seen.

    There wasnt’ any normal music or dancing anyone could recognize. Instead, it was an artsy-fartsy diorama showing the History of Man. Awful, spooky music, and death masks and medieval images projected on the peace tower. Total tortured-intellectual crap.

    It just killed the mood. By midnight, nobody was cheering anymore…it was just sad and depressing.

    The numbers for the count-down were cheesy projected overhead transparencies. And they even screwed THAT up.

    It went: 10…9……..(nothing)…(sideways 6) 3,2.1..0!

    (It appears someone panicked, and just threw the numbers up there).

    By the time the fireworks started, people were just laughing (not with the show, but AT the show) and were already starting to leave.

    The next day on CFRA radio, everyone phoned in, complaining how BAD the who spectacle was.

    Anyway…I must admit..it WAS a memorable night…for the wrong reasons.

  16. One memorable NYE for me was early on in my relationship with PG. He and I went to a hockey game and sat in a private box rented by his then-roommate and his baseball team (the Canucks vs the Maple Leafs – and the Leafs actually won, much to PG’s joy!). Then we went home for a little champagne celebration “à deux” – and I do love me some champagne! Then I was awoken at about 4 a.m. by the sounds of the roommate having very noisy sex with some girl he’d picked up after the hockey game. Yes, I remember that NYE quite vividly!

  17. haha, friar’s comment cracked me up – that is sooooo Ottawa.
    my sister and brother and coming to care for the kids and we are heading to a cottage party. i’m just really looking forward to a day/night sans enfants.

  18. I’m not a big NYE fan. And now I still have to work so I usually miss the 12am festivities. I do remember a NYE when I was young and my father had been taken to hospital with a heart attack (or something very serious). We actually weren’t sure he would make it, but we were all at a family friends house and probably laughed more than we’d ever done before. Possibly nervous energy. At midnight, everyone on the street opened their doors and we all trooped outside banging pots and pans and singing. I was about 5 and every NYE after that has seemed a bit anti-climactic. My father lived for another 45 years.

  19. I am usually in bed and asleep before midnight, only to awaken when I hear fire crackers going off. I have a little champagne with my husband and that’s it. Too many crazy people out there on New Year’s Eve and I hate crowds so there you go. I don’t have any really interesting or exciting memories of New Year’s Eve-just some good ones with friends through the years.

  20. I have no Hogmanay story that good. The nearest I can come is the turn of the millenium which we spent in a cottage by the sea. Fireworks were planned to welcome 2000 in at midnight and we thought it would be fun to wake up our not-quite-2 year old son so he would be there for the momentous occasion. He was, unsurprisingly, disorientated and cranky, and when the fireworks went off, he completely freaked out. (We now know he has a serious noise sensitivity for which he is receiving treatment. We didn’t know that then.) Husband and I panicked, blamed each other for the bright idea and thus broke the record for having the first matrimonial spat of 2000 before 00:01 am. Yeah, that was fun.

  21. My best-spent New Years Eves have always been in the Florida Keys. NOT this year though….

    It just started snowing like mad. Taxis will all be booked. May be a New Year’s In!

  22. After having kids we struggle to stay up to midnight. Last year we made it to 12:01 for the first time in seven years. Boring and sad, but true. I like your fire story…waaaay more exciting. Happy New Year! Laura

  23. Dave – Cool.

    Geewits – Ha ha. Excellent motto.

    Friar – Why is it that Ottawa is so lame about almost everything like this? It’s embarrassing. I don’t think The City has really ever gotten the hang of a) being a city and b) being The capital city of Canada. Maybe we should let someone else do it.

    Pinklea – Hurrah for very noisy sex!!

    Meanie – That sounds very romantic. Will it be just the two of you or other couples as well?

    Violetsky – See, now that’s even more memorable than the hotel fire story.

    Linda – I’m with you. I can take it or leave it. I like it best when I have a couple of friends over and we have a quiet night of talking, eating and drinking.

    Loth – Obviously not enough mellowing alcohol was involved. Let that be a lesson to you.

    Ellie – I’m sure you guys will have more fun than anyone in the whole world no matter what you get up to.

    Mindful – Ya, the fire story was when I was in university. I haven’t stayed up past midnight for yonks either.

  24. I never bothered to celebrate until DH and I started ballroom dancing. Now, all of our efforts go into finding a gala with the biggest dance-floor and best band. Last year we went to the Hampton for their bash and danced until we couldn’t possibly do any more… this year we’re doing it all over again.

    I don’t care that it’s NYE… I just want to dance. Our wedding anniversary happens at the stroke of midnight so that’s what we’re celebrating at midnight tonight.

  25. Susan – Tango your way into the new year and a new year of marriage! (And thanks re: the layout. I reckon it was high time for a change)

    Bandobras – Ya, I pulled out all the stops and got out my hottest strides for this photo.

    Glen – Be my guest my good man, as long as you give me credit! (And thanks re: the pic/layout)