Happy New Year!


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I was looking for New Year's gifs and for some reason this one made me giggle (I was too old for Full House although obviously have seen a few episodes in my day), anyway Happy New Year! 2019...that's like, almost 2020. Woah right? Especially for those of us old enough to remember what a big deal New Year's Eve 1999 was - how was that almost 20 years ago?! Yikes.

During that crazy "Y2K" New Year's Eve I was living in Hell's Kitchen in New York (now more quaintly known as "Clinton"). This is only a few blocks from the hubbub of Times Square but I wanted nothing to do with that mob scene (to be fair I did do Times Square one year before I lived in New York, that was enough for me!).

I went downtown to be with friends in the East Village, we ended up at my favorite dive bar 7B (named for its location on 7th Street and Avenue B, it's called something else now but they still use it to film "grungy" New York regularly although I imagine it's hipster central now - the bar in Jessica Jones is set there, amongst many other shows and films; I don't know how they even operate as a bar what with all the filming!). Anyway it had a large horsheshoe shaped bar, and a very good jukebox, and somehow attracted a clientele that was youngish to mixed ages, not too trendy, basically it always had a really low key, chill vibe.

Back in those days the East Village still clung onto hints of authentic grunginess, to its history, in a way I see that is virtually wiped now in the New York Instagram accounts I insist on following and being depressed by the dramatic changes to my old 'hood throughout the passage of time.

I had a college friend visiting from out of town also, she had managed to meet a dude at a bar the night before uptown I guess (how was I someone who went to bars two nights on the trot?! Ah youth!). A couple of close friends of mine came out with us, it was one of those great New York nights where you meet new people and the world is full of possibility and you don't actually make any bad choices although you probably could have but it would have wrecked the gilded memory so you are glad in retrospect.

I remember waking up at my friend's apartment feeling a tiny bit less blue about the world/like I had endless opportunities ahead of me. Moving back to New York after college was something I had to save up for a year after graduating: I had everything vested in my New York dream, something that seems so innocent and naive, but sweet, to me now. Ever since I was a little girl I had dreamed of living in New York, and while it was more often than not a struggle, it was life changing for me in many ways and I still, as is probably obvious, remember it very fondly.

Anyhoo, New Year's Eve in America has a different vibe to me than it does in the U.K./Scotland. It's celebratory, but also a bit introspective, whereas I feel like in the U.K. it's like 95% celebratory, the rest slightly half hearted resolutions without too much deep reflection encouraged.

That might be unfair, it's just my own experience - in the first years I lived in Scotland, Hogmanay (as they call New Year's Eve here) was a downright bacchanalian marathon of partying that entailed multiple destinations and a slightly surreal bowl of soup around dawn that someone's parents had kindly stayed up to warm for us (my husband is from a small town) so the tradition of "first footing" is/was still in effect, in which people are expected to stay up to entertain drunken youth I guess?

It was all incredibly cheerful and convivial (and foreign to me!). Everyone gathered at the town cross for "the bells" at midnight, kisses and New Year's greeting were exchanged with (in my case) mostly strangers, and then, as the years passed and people settled down a bit, we maybe stayed at a friend's house for most of the night.

We had a couple of years where we went to ceilidhs (dances) or discos instead, and they were fun, too. Auld Lang Syne was played at midnight at quite a rowdy speed as everyone gathered round in a circle, arms crossed across our chests and hands linked, chanting and getting more and more rousing as the song progresses. This video is a decent approximation (except add more drunk people!): ;-)



Kinda cool if you've never seen it before, eh? I'm sure there is some meaning behind not breaking the circle, the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne are sweetly hopeful and mournful at once, and I can't help also enjoying more quiet versions of the song like this one by James Taylor (I highly recommend his Christmas album for chilled out holiday vibes):



The past couple of years we have had quieter ones, for mostly circle of
life type reasons: people being less inclined to go out as they age, friend groups shrinking or changing for various reasons (kids, divorces, etc.). Being an introvert it has, if I'm honest, not broken my heart, I am pretty happy to stay inside and be boring and not have a hangover on New Year's Day!

But the lyrics of the song (originally a poem by Robert Burns, which...uh yeah, requires translating, even for this long time expat) do resonate for me, as an expat far away from old friends most of my life, as a 40 something who can't quite believe 20 years have passed since I hung out on barstools in the village with friends I still call friend, but haven't seen in too many years.

Auld Lang Syne is certainly a wistful song, I kind of like how the Scottish people infuse its melancholic tone with a bit of joy in the dance, because we have to muster some hope for the New Year, don't we? It's the only way to get through those long (short) winter days stretching in front of us right now.

The forced cheer of a new calendar year begun right smack in the middle of winter is a pretty clever trick (it used to begin in March, but then in the 16th century they decided to change it!). As a January baby I have something to look forward to anyway (although last year I did have a wee moan about the perils of January birthdays!).

So anyway, I hope we all "take a cup of kindness yet" this year, with friends old and new; it's honestly been a bit of a tough holiday period for me personally so I just want to get on with the start of 2019 and hope it brings good news and happiness and health for all of us. I don't need to be reminded to be be grateful for the good things in life this new year, so I am lucky in that respect at least. On a world/political level 2018 was hella exhausting, so I hope that 2019 has a more mellow and kind vibe all around, for all of our sakes. Happy New Year, anyway, I hope it's a good one for all of us!



xo Steff

2 comments

  1. 1999/2000 I celebrated New Year's Eve in Santa Cruz at my sisters house where she made bubbly jello and we watched the ball drop on tv then went outside and shook up this packets that pop. I think I had just started working at Mervyns and my hair was super short and I had a face full of acne. I was vaguely aware of the Y2K scare, but not really, mostly just from all the survivor/fallout shelter catalogs my mom was receiving (we need 50lbs of freeze dried eggs! And capri sun like containers of water!)

    Also: I don't think I have EVER gone out for New Year's Eve, I've either not stayed up, or stayed up at my own place, or gone to someones house for a small get together. This year I did not stay up, ha.

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    1. Yeah when I lived in America it felt more normal/natural to stay home at New Year's, culturally here it's just kinda like "Oh what are you plans for New Year?" and you feel like a super boring person for not having some grand destination weekend away fireworks thing planned, I'm like "It was just Christmas a week ago, Grandma needs a nap!" ;-)

      That's crazy you had the Y2K end of the world catalogue, I wonder how much money those people made off of it!

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