What Are You Doing for New Year’s?

This is my last post of 2009, so I wanted to say something significant, something to sum up the year and point with optimism to the days ahead. Instead, my thoughts turned to New Year traditions. A lot of them are pretty silly, when you think about it.

Take “Auld Lang Syne,” for instance.

Why do we sing this? Apparently, back in 1929, Guy Lombardo’s band played the song at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City after hearing some Scottish immigrants singing it. The Waldorf Astoria continued the tradition,  playing Lombardo’s version of the song every year until 1976. Radio (and then television) allowed the rest of the country to sing along at home.

Do you know the words? I didn’t. A web search turned up the lyrics (reprinted at the end of this post), but then I had more questions. What in the world is a pint-stowp? How does one “pou’d the gowans fine”? Happily Wikipedia had all the answers.

Another tradition is the making (and usually breaking) of New Year resolutions. The Babylonians invented this idea, but instead of vowing to diet and exercise, they handed back borrowed farm implements. Returning your neighbor’s rake seems a lot easier than losing those extra pounds.  Still, this tradition has its roots in the idea that we can put aside our failures and start afresh. That’s much like Paul’s admonition to forget “what lies behind and … press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-21) That’s not silly at all.

There are a zillion superstitions connected with the beginning of the New Year. Snopes has done a masterful job of explaining many of them. I got the impression that most were the product of obsessive compulsive minds. I am planning to follow through on one tradition, however. Kissing your loved ones at midnight is a great idea. I’d hate to pass up an opportunity for a smooch with my sweetie!

Traditions vary around the world, although certain themes emerge. Loud noises and fires (or fireworks, which are a combination of both) are intended to frighten away evil spirits so that the new year maybegin unencumbered. Parades are a big deal; the Rose Parade in Pasadena has plenty of company.

Some places, however, have traditions which are… interesting, if inexplicable. If you live in parts of South America, for example, the underwear you put on to welcome the new year has special significance. Your underpants must be brightly colored, and the colors matter. Red is thought to encourage romance in the year ahead, while yellow brings prosperity.

Like with any other holiday, food plays a big part in the celebration. Spaniards eat grapes at midnight while many Americans enjoy black-eyed peas. Greeks carefully chew their St. Basil’s cakes so that they don’t break a tooth on the coin hidden inside. My friend Cynthia fries donuts at midnight, timing the yeast dough so that it’s ready at just the right moment. Pete and I frequently get Chinese take-out for dinner on New Year’s Eve; later we dip bread into cheese fondue kept warm on our wood-burning stove.

We live near Colorado Springs, located at the base of Pikes Peak. Our town has its own New Year’s tradition. Pikes Peak is a very tall mountain. Reaching 14,110 feet, it’s not the highest in Colorado (that honor goes to Mt. Elbert, at 14,433 feet), but it’s still one of  54 “Fourteeners” in the state.  Not only that, but the trail to the summit is one of the more strenuous hikes in a state filled with challenging hiking. As I write this in mid-December, the temperature on top of this mountain is -1.9, up from a low last night of -17. The average wind  speed is howling along at 38 mph wind, with at least one gust today clocked at 74 mph. Add that all together, and the wind chill is a brisk -31.8 degrees—at noon.

adaman-club-hike-1Given these facts, it’s no surprise that a group of people known as the AdAmAn Club, along with their guests, eagerly climb this mountain as their New Year celebration. After all, who’d pass up such an great chance for hypothermia and frostbite?

The club members and guests actually spend two days on the trail. Leaving town on December 30, the hikers spend the night at Barr Camp, a sheltered stopping point approximately halfway to the top. The following day they finish the climb. Once they reach the summit, they set up a fireworks display and wait for midnight. Then, to herald the new year, they shoot off the fireworks to dazzle us mere mortals watching from below. Maybe they’re just letting Search & Rescue know they’re still alive.

Photo taken from AdAmAn Club album on Facebook.

What are your favorite  New Year traditions? Have you ever kept a New Year’s resolution all year?

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.


2 thoughts on “What Are You Doing for New Year’s?

  1. So, did you pick out some bright underwear to bring in the new year? I think you should wear green, so as to have a fruitful garden. 🙂 Love you, Mom!

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