New Year's Eve

End of the year holiday expectations are often tied to memories of past celebrations. So, back in November I asked about 50 people in leadership at United Church Homes to send some of the things that help to make their holiday. This “research” was for a zoom game for our virtual holiday party. It could be anything related to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Here are some answers from my own well of experience:

Is there a movie that you just have to watch each December? The Holiday.

What food item that you love to enjoy this time of year? Chocolate Cherry cookies.

Is there a certain way that you give and receive gifts? One at a time by birth order youngest to oldest.

Do you have distinct rules about when and what music can be played? Definitely no Christmas carols before Thanksgiving.


Re-membering holidays past

The stories from my colleagues were wonderful. I spent much of the first weeks of December opening my email and laughing in the delight of their traditions. Silly and Serious. Sacred and not-so-sacred. Long-standing traditions repeated year after year alongside memories from one specific year. When we reflect on the meaning of these holidays, their religious and cultural significance is entwined with our personal experience.

There are many stories and lists at year’s end recounting the previous twelve months. Whether as leading stories on TV magazine shows, on social media sites or through the sending and receiving of holiday letters from family and friends. These remembrances are a way of marking the passing of time. Another 12 months. Another set of seasons. Another list of accomplishments and things left undone. What do you do to wrap up the year as we get ready to begin anew?

Traditions focused on the future

In the memories of these traditions at year’s end, there is also expectation and anticipation of what is yet to come. We look back and reflect on what was while looking forward and anticipate what is not yet. How many new year’s traditions are about making wishes for the year ahead? Or rituals to ward off “bad” luck that could come in the future?

Seven years ago, our family spent Christmastide and New Years in Barcelona, Spain. Both of our kids were living overseas and Barcelona was a convenient place for all of us to meet. Excited to be welcoming in the new year in a large city, they convinced their parents that we should join with the other 499,996 people downtown for the entertainment, fireworks and chance to say that we were there. Standing in the humungous crowd for hours. Straining to see the entertainment and keep track of each other, we observed one of their unique traditions: as the clock struck 12 times, people took out their bags of grapes and ate one with each bell toll to welcome in the new year.

We had not stopped to buy the grapes to join in the tradition. Perhaps our misfortune because of this oversite was the reason why it took us hours to get back to our hotel which was not anywhere near downtown! Our first sleep in 2015 didn’t come until the new day was about to dawn-- well past the shutting down of the public transportation system and long past the hour when most taxi and uber drivers had called it a night. It was a grand time for our family and stretched this introvert well beyond my comfort zone. But glad that I can say “been there done that”—don’t need to do it again!

Personal Preferences

There are many other new years’ eve traditions which have never appealed to me. I don’t need to pop a cork and enjoy quantities of bubbly. Dressing up, dancing, fireworks, large parties (other than Barcelona) are not my cup of tea. I prefer to welcome the new year in comfortable clothes, with a few dear people and just enough food to sweeten the night. And knowing that there are many others who have been celebrating in many ways dissimilar from me, I also am not fond of having to share the road with those who may be less than capable of driving safely.

These days my preferred way to usher in the new year is a quiet evening with people who don’t care if one of us falls asleep before the ball drops. Play a few games. Enjoy a few snacks. A kiss in the first moments of the year. Quick phone calls or texts with loved ones who are separated by miles. And then a swift exit to a restful sleep.

What are the celebrations of years past that hold dear memories for you?

What are you leaving behind with the passing of 2021?

What are your traditions for welcoming in the new year?

Who will be your first phone calls or text in the new year?

What do you anticipate in the coming of 2022?

And what things do you want to begin anew as the old calendar comes off the wall and the new one is placed in its’ stead?


May your new year begin with the right amount of merriment and with many ways for you to share your appreciation of the loved ones in your life. As we look toward another year, may we do so grounded in the comfort which memories and lessons learned in years past bring us in the present. And let us step into the new year with the same hope which God provides with the rising of the sun each and every day.

Happy New Year!

About the Author

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, Executive Director of The Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins is the Executive Director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, musician, fiber artist, and mother of two adult children.

View all articles by Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, Executive Director of The Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging