Moments just before and just after midnight on New Year’s Eve always feel weird and surreal for me — like a sort of interlude hanging somewhere between past, present and future, all blurred into a single fleeting instant. Watching the countdown live on television has become a yearly tradition, although there is something kind of disconcerting about intently watching time go by. I think of everyone counting down together – people in restaurants, banquet halls, homes and city squares. I watch all those strangers in Times Square, huddled together in the cold, united only by their collective countdown, their readiness to close off the year and begin anew, with high hopes, big wishes and meaningful resolutions.
You can’t help but be introspective, I think, in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve and in the moments leading up to midnight. Conversations, blog-posts, articles and Facebook statuses all reflect this introspective mood. What did this past year bring? How did we change? What do we hope most for the year ahead?
Perhaps it is my curse that I am so introspective on most days of the year – New Year’s Eve only heightens it. This might be why New Year’s Eve often brings a little bit of angst for me. It’s just an ordinary day, after all, but if you think of how it marks the beginning of a fresh year, a new start, and the prologue of a still-unwritten Unknown, it gains quite a bit of importance and adds pressure to the act of simply celebrating – eating, drinking, dancing and laughing ’til the last page of an arbitrary calendar falls away.
This turning of the page marks a clean slate — a new chance — and calls upon the desire to “do it right” this time – to make the most of every day, to set aside time for loved-ones, to be better at staying in touch, to be strong and not to cry too easily, to not complain, to pursue dreams and passions, to eat better, sleep more, spend less, laugh more. To be honest, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think that such introspectiveness and a desire for self-improvement should not be reserved for one sole day of the year, but rather, that it should be a constant process throughout the 365(6) “fresh starts” that a year has to offer. However, although I firmly believe in this point-of-view, I would be hypocritical if I denied that I, too, share this “clean slate” feeling when the clock strikes midnight, and have high hopes and big wishes for the year ahead.
New Year’s Eve is an important night in our family traditions and our Armenian culture, and the whole family always gathers together, usually at my parents’ house. The best part of this is that the year always begins with hugging and kissing loved-ones. Especially precious to me are my grandmothers. I’ve witnessed one of my grandmothers grow less and less mobile every year, although it usually takes a step back for me to fully notice it; otherwise I am in stubborn, childish denial of this reality. When I hug them tight at midnight, I repress the inevitable wish that this will not be the last year where the whole family will be here, intact.
Over the last few years, our family has grown, with my sister’s husband, my husband, and for the first time ever this year (making his grand debut!) my 6-month old nephew. He was awake at midnight, wide-eyed yet oblivious to meaning of all this, and we were all touched once again by the sweet innocence and promise of this little man.
Shortly after midnight, it’s up to my dad to pop the cork and pour the champagne, while I blare some upbeat music to celebrate to. My mom goes around the house turning on lights and running water from the taps, symbolizing life and abundance for the year to come. After our toast to the new year and some wacky dancing if the mood allows, we gather around the tree to open our Christmas gifts. Note that it was extremely difficult to grow up with this tradition and to remain patient, especially when all your friends opened their gifts on Christmas Day and did not show any considerateness when they bragged to you about all they got from Santa that year. I can only be grateful that we do not have to wait until January 6th to open them!
Our family is very close-knit and, on such occasions, our house is filled with music, food and laughter. It’s a beautiful kind of chaos. On the one hand, you have my sister and me, who love each other but relentlessly pick on each other, in a way that only sisters can manage to do. Then you have my grandmother who asks you to fill her glass with more and more wine, although she already feels tipsy and giggly after only three sips. Then you have my uncle – one of the three paparazzo photographers in the house – who takes f.o.r.e.v.e.r to shoot a picture, and we start to lose our composure and tell him through our teeth to hurry it up while we try to hold our smile. In the kitchen, you have my mom who is frantically running about trying to ensure that the fifteen different types of food emerge at the same time and all remain hot until we sit down, while my grandmother, sister and I try to help her but wind up getting in her way. The table is often so filled with food, we barely have room to set our wine glasses down. Every year, we take pictures in front of the Christmas tree and at the table, while nothing much has changed but yet so much has. All of our (loud) conversations take place in a mix of Armenian, English and French, with a mix of Arabic, Turkish and Greek words borrowed here and there, and Italian and Spanish interjections inserted now and then. We transfer expressions from one language into the other and none of it makes any sense, but after a few glasses of wine, none of those details really matter. We still translate any non-English bits for my husband now and then, although we were much better at it about six years ago. Now we just kind of let him get the gist on his own, because he thinks we’re utterly crazy anyway. To all of this chaos, add a sometimes-laughing-sometimes-crying six month-old baby and a cat who just loves our company and gets under everyone’s feet or chair, and loses herself in piles of wrapping paper as we open our gifts.
Every year of my life has begun this way, and no matter what underlying nerves I secretly feel about the Unknown that stretches ahead and all the big events that this year will surely bring, I am always anchored by the strong love that fills this very scene, anchored by each one of these special people who are the pillars of my world.