If you’re looking for the Wednesday Wandering, just page back one to see some of the cutest aliens in the universe. Best of all, they live on Our Planet. Then join me and Alan as we ring in the New Year.
JANE: For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the flurry of
Christmas season activities. I suppose, in light of how much I enjoy some of these, it’s going to sound strange, but I also love the week between Christmas and New Year.
When I was a kid, that week was a time when school (and homework) was comfortably distant. There were new things to play with and still quite a few interesting things to eat. Then, at the end of the lull came New Year’s Eve. My parents often held a semi-formal party. It was a great Coming of Age ritual when you were considered old enough to get dressed up (girls in long gowns), and try to stay up until midnight.
ALAN: It’s very exciting the first time you watch the calendar tick over. Let’s pretend it’s midnight (it MUST be midnight somewhere) so that I can be the first to wish you Happy New Year.
JANE: And a happy, healthy, and catastrophe-free 2012 to you. Happy New Year’s!
ALAN: I’ve often wondered where that extra “s” came from. I hear it a lot in American movies and it always sounds strange. Since there’s an apostrophe lurking in there I presume it’s a possessive – so the obvious question is Happy New Year’s what?
JANE: Happy New Year’s Day… Or New Year’s Eve. Americans like to shorten things. Often the apostrophe gets left out of pre-made decorations and therefore adds to the confusion.
ALAN: How bizarre! Of course I get to say it long before you do because New Zealand is the very first country in the world to get the new year (well, apart from Antarctica of course, but I’m not sure that really counts). When the millennium turned over, Robin took great joy in ringing her parents in Western Australia and accusing them of being behind the times because they were still living in the last century.
JANE: I used to live on the East Coast, so I was on the earliest time zone for the U.S. New Year. When I moved to New Mexico, I was startled to get “Happy New Year” phone calls when – for me – it was only ten p.m. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite the same about “seeing in the New Year” since. Some years, Jim and I even go to bed before the big moment. Last year, though, we saw the year in with our next-door neighbor and that was rather nice.
ALAN: There have been times when we have stayed up to see in the New Year with a glass of champagne, but these days mostly we sleep through it because we are old and boring.
JANE: New Year’s Day itself can be a let-down. I suppose it’s because too many people are recovering from the late night before.
Some years my mom would experiment with a new recipe, but that’s about as far as New Year’s Day rituals went. Therefore, I was surprised when I went to college to learn that many people had important New Year’s Day customs, often related to inviting in luck and prosperity for the coming year.
ALAN: The British traditions are based around this idea of inviting luck and prosperity into the house as well. How do you approach it? I’m curious to see if the British customs have survived their journey across the Atlantic, or if you have you developed your own.
JANE: Well, one custom was to put money – loose change would do – on the windowsill, outside the window itself, if possible. This was to invite more money to come after. Another was that pork should be served as part of the menu, because it is rich and would make you rich. I suspect the “richness” was not just cash in pocket, but also in other good things.
ALAN: What interesting ideas! We’ve got first footing which describes the first person to cross the threshold of the house as the New Year dawns. Traditionally, the first footer should be a dark haired man who brings a gift to the house, symbolising all the gifts that, hopefully, will flow through the door as the year advances. Often, for some odd reason, the gift will be a lump of coal. This can lead to a flurry of door knocking just after midnight as first footers travel the neighbourhood. Coal is hard to obtain in these modern central-heating days, so today’s first footers usually bring food and drink with them.
JANE: Why a dark-haired man? Do you know?
ALAN: There’s a suggestion that it dates back to the days of the Viking invasions. A blond stranger turning up on your doorstep generally signified all kinds of trouble. Women (and grave-diggers!) are regarded as unlucky first-footers though I’ve been unable to discover why.
Once the New Year has arrived, or sometimes even before, New Zealanders set off on their annual holiday away from the hustle and bustle of work. Remember, it’s the height of summer here. For all practical purposes, the entire country is closed during late December and January. Don’t try and do any business deals here early in the New Year; your phone calls, faxes, letters and emails will go unanswered until February. I work for New Zealand Telecom which is officially closing down on December 19th and not re-opening until January 16th. However staff will still be trickling back in dribs and drabs until well into February. This is not untypical.
JANE: Wow! This is hard to imagine. Apparently, Americans have trouble taking vacations, a problem that electronic communications has only exacerbated. I remember having Christmas dinner last year with a man who couldn’t stop checking his messages. He explained with great calm that he had Important Investments he had to track. Sheesh!
I must admit, I’ll write, but since I enjoy writing, that’s not quite the same. Jim is very good at taking time off. This year he plans to attempt three weeks. He’s doing well so far. Last year he got called in early to deal with impending field projects, but he’s being quite stubborn.
I hope you enjoy your long time of relaxation.
ALAN: I find I have trouble NOT taking vacations. But of course I regard work as an irritating intrusion into my hobbies.
Meanwhile, let’s end as we began – Happy New Year(‘s)!