As a 12,000-pound crystal ball works its way down a pole in New York City’s Times Square bidding farewell to 2012, people across the United States — including those locally — will raise their cups with cheers and a toast to ring in the new year.
New Year’s Eve celebrations are characterized on Wikipedia as “evening social gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages and watch or light fireworks.”
But not everyone ascribes to the “go out and get lit” approach to the new year. Some prefer a decidedly more subdued observance, while others keep the conventional customs, but add a personalized twist to suit their own families and lifestyles.
Wendy Price, 43, of Keedysville, said early in their marriage, she and her husband Dale Price, 47, would get dressed up and go out “someplace fancy” with friends for dinner.
“Then, we started having kids and it turned into a family thing,” she said. “We started going to each other’s houses, then there were too many people. Too many kids.”
Dale’s family owns a farm with an old milking parlor that was renovated to serve as a gathering place. The space is equipped with a kitchen and an open hearth, so the expanding group of roughly 30 people began to gather there.
“We would get together and have supper and play board games. We’d decide on meat, then everyone would bring a dish,” she said.
Predictions became a staple of the celebration. Dale’s sister kept a notebook where she recorded the group’s guesses regarding what might happen in the upcoming year.
“Some were serious, some funny. It was usually who would get married, who was going to get pregnant,” Wendy Price said. “She would keep the book and go over it the next year to see what came true and what didn’t.”
As the years passed, attendance declined and the tradition came to an end.
“The older our kids got, you know, they had things they wanted to do,” Price said. “There were youth group things, and we’d be taking them places.”
Parents of teens who attend Faith Christian Fellowship in Williamsport might find themselves at a similar crossroads. For the third year, the church will host New Year’s Eve Explosion, an all-night celebration for ninth- through 12th-graders.
Brian Kelley, an FCF pastor focusing on student and family ministries, said the event costs $10 per student and features tactical laser tag, pingpong, pool, cornhole, Xbox dance and sports games at the church, and a middle-of-the-night trip to a bowling alley and a gym for basketball and volleyball. Around 60 youths attend.
“It’s a pretty good crowd. We bus ’em around everywhere. Last year, we did an ice rink. We switch it up, have a good time,” Kelley said. “We give them food through the night and breakfast in the morning.”
Kelley said the event, along with a Super Bowl party, is the church’s largest youth outreach. Parents are supportive of the party because they know their teens are “safe and cared for.”
“It gives kids an opportunity to be somewhere fun and not be out doing something foolish,” Kelley said.
‘An accidental tradition’
An all-nighter likely would not be a good match for Rebecha Catlett, 37, of Falling Waters, W.Va. For many years, her husband, Brian Catlett, 46, had to work his job in warehousing at CertainTeed in Williamsport.
A couple of years ago, when Brian first had the night off, rather than planning a night on the town, the two opted for a quiet indoor picnic and struggled to stay awake until midnight.
“Typically, 10 is staying up late for us because we both get up really early to go to work,” Rebecha Catlett said. “But we wanted to be able to give each other a kiss at midnight.”
For the third year, the couple plans to get subs, chips, a 2-liter bottle of soda and a couple of movies at their favorite deli. They will spread a quilt on the living room floor and watch the ball drop at midnight on TV, though Catlett said she wouldn’t want to go to the Times Square celebration or elsewhere. It’s too cold, and being out on the roads on New Year’s Eve seems unsafe, she said.
“I think we appreciate that (Brian) has the evening off so we can bring in the new year together, just he and I. We really like the quiet and the calm and we just like to spend time at home together,” she said.
Catlett called the indoor picnic “an accidental tradition.”
“We didn’t plan for it to be a tradition. We just kind of did it and said, ‘Let’s do it again,’” she said. “Fancy? No. Our tradition? Yes.”
Hitting the slopes
Nikita Cole, 15, of Hagerstown said she and her mother, Beckie Cole, 41, kicked off a new tradition last year. Not in New York and not at home, they spent New Year’s Eve at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., with friends.
“It was fun. You could go skiing, tubing or snowboarding. At midnight, they had a mini-ball that dropped and they set of fireworks. It was like New York, only, of course, smaller. We are going this year, too.”
Cole said being at the slopes was better than being at a party where “most people just sit around.”
Melissa Kemp, 37, of Hagerstown, said her mother and father have a simple tradition that is more fun than any New Year’s Eve celebration she’s ever been to. They gather with a few other couples, everyone brings a dish and they play Monopoly.
“I went one year and I had the best time. It beat any of my other ‘going out’ New Year’s. You just laugh and you have fun,” Kemp said. “For me, I hadn’t played Monopoly since I was a kid, so it brings all that back.”
She is unsure how her parents, Kerry and Carol Kemp of Meyersdale, Pa., settled on the game. She had it when she was a child, she said, but her parents never played.
“I think maybe it’s because it is such a long game. It lasts for several hours, so maybe they were like, ‘Let’s play that one,’” she said.
Kemp has been unable to attend the New Year’s Eve celebration again mostly because of work obligations. But she has called her parents during the festivities.
“You can hear all the laughing in the background, and I always wish I was there,” she said.
Charlene and Niel Augustine, both 49, of Hagerstown, also prefer a low-key get-together with friends. Charlene said Niel cooks and they play games.
“I prefer it because it’s more relaxing. It’s no stress, a nice way of bringing in the new year.”