New Year's has always been one of my favorite holidays. I like the idea of closure. Ringing out the old as you ring in the new is about as perfect a closure as you can get.
As long as I can remember, New Year's Day involved eating the traditional black-eyed peas, collards and cornbread. Superstition holds that eating those foods will result in financial gain in the coming year with the collards representing dollar bills and the peas acting as proxies for pennies.
When I stopped by my local grocery last Tuesday, most of the shopping carts were loaded with bunches of collards so this must be a fairly universal belief. Couldn't hurt. I suspect the economy's nosedive has been a real windfall for collard growers nationwide.
For years, one of my favorite New Year's Eve traditions was the First Night Celebration. It took place in downtown Gainesville at multiple venues. It was alcohol-free and family friendly.
The evening always started at the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, or INK, which at that time was located in the old First Methodist Church building. Kids would be treated to a musical program, magicians' tricks and get to make craft masks, which they'd then wear in a parade that led to the Mountain Center where the real party started.
There was indeed something for everyone: bluegrass music, theatre productions, a classic rock ‘n' roll band, face painting, the storytelling genius of Kathy Amos, more crafts, those huge inflatable bounce houses that kids never seem to tire of and, my personal favorite, Emerald Rose.
Emerald Rose describes its music as Celtic American Folk Rock. Their contemporary compositions used pennywhistles, Irish pipes, world percussion, guitar and bass to create New Year's magic.
And of course there was the countdown and balloon drop at midnight. It was the perfect family New Year's Eve celebration.
First Night was discontinued a few years ago. I'm sure it's a monster to organize and a money pit as well since most of the events were free. But I still miss it. If anyone decides to revive it and needs help, my hand will be the first in the air.
I'm writing this column on New Year's Eve morning. It will appears Jan. 2. By then, life will be back to business as usual. It's a new year filled with foreboding and promise. The economy, the job market, the conflict in Gaza, it weighs on me. It makes the foreboding all too real and the promise hard to envision.
There were years when my resolutions revolved around things: finding the perfect big screen TV, losing weight and buying a new wardrobe. That's so 2006. Accumulating stuff doesn't matter, not any more.
I try to make resolutions that will make life better. First of all, to shop with local merchants whenever possible. After all, they will be the first to go in this fickle economy and we owe them our loyalty.
I vow to be the best possible steward of my family's resources. That means comparison shopping, coupon clipping, and squeezing another year out of my aging little pick-up.
This is a new year with new priorities. I vow to focus on what really matters. My husband. My children. My temple. My community.
Wait. NOW I see the promise ...
Originally published in the Gainesville Times, January 2, 2009