The world parties tonight, and for good reason: we have survived 2014, and there is the hope things will improve for 2015. Given our track record that may not be a big hope, but we have to have something to hold on to. So tonight we party, as we try to forget missing airliners, floods and earthquakes, civil war in Ukraine, racial violence in the United States, global warming, the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East and numerous other issues that we weren’t thinking about 364 days ago when the new year held so much promise. Maybe we all need a party to relax a little; it has been quite a year. For about a decade before I was married I hosted an annual New Year’s Eve party. The impression I had was that it seemed to have gained a certain amount of notoriety over the years. Starting in mid-January people would be asking me if I was going to be holding it again that year. Some people’s holiday social calendars revolved around it. All of which is very amusing when you realize that as an introvert I have no great liking for parties of any sort. Small groups are usually okay, but anything with more than perhaps 10 people involved has me looking for reasons not to attend. Some days even 10 is too many. Since I don’t enjoy parties, in some ways it made sense to set something up for New Year’s that more or less fit into what I wanted to do. There were two things that set the gathering apart from other New Year’s Eve celebrations. The first was that it was completely alcohol-free. For many people New Year’s is an excuse to drink to excess. That has never appealed to me. I have been at parties with drunken people; they are remarkably poor conversationalists. And from what I have observed of friends and co-workers suffering from morning-after hangovers, I am amazed that anyone voluntarily puts themselves in such a state. My party was a statement that you didn’t need to have alcohol to have a good time. And a good time was had by all, usually about 30 people or so. The highlight for many was piling into all available vehicles shortly after midnight and heading to a nearby hill for some tobogganing. Windows of the cars were wide open, despite the sub-zero temperatures, because the toboggans would not fit in the trunk and had to be put on people’s laps in the back seat, sticking out the window. Music was played at full blast, everyone singing along to old Beach Boys tunes. Somehow the Beach Boys are perfect for a cold Canadian winter night. Surprisingly we were never stopped by police, who no doubt would have been completely confused by our sobriety. After tobogganing is when we would return home for the feast. The other thing that made the party different was the way we would welcome the New Year. No shouts and screams and singing “Auld Lang Syne.” It was a late start – people began arriving about 11 p.m. About 11:50 I would call for silence, and we would begin the New Year with prayer. Those in attendance who were not people of faith would spend the time reflecting on the year ending and contemplating the possibilities of the year to come. Given that people came year after year, I can only conclude that the tradition was appreciated. The annual event ended the year I decided instead to go to a New Year’s Eve concert being held in St. Catharines, Ontario, about an eight hour drive away at the time. It was a tough decision to not hold the party, but hindsight shows it was the right one. At that concert, 35 years ago tonight, I met the young lady who is now my wife.
Addendum: Christine asked in the comments and I have also received emails asking, so for the record: the concert was Ransom (Greg Hough’s band after he left Petra, Randy Stonehill (who brought along friend Tom Howard) and Mike Warnke. That of course is if my memory is accurate after 35 years.