New Year’s Eve: Making the best of a bad holiday

Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Jan. 5, 2011.

New Year’s Eve might be my least favorite holiday. Over-hyped and forced, it’s a contrived excuse for celebration that, at its best, always feels halfhearted. Why does the conclusion of a year need to be marked with such trite fanfare? Who was the first person to say, “Hey, it’s the end of the year, let’s consume large quantities of alcohol and spend way too much money!” anyway?

Every year, when the requisite New Year’s Eve planning commences among my friends, I am grudgingly pulled into the discussion. I’m not much help. I tend to set the bar pretty low — as in, I dig a hole in the ground and put the bar in it. Having low or no expectations for NYE is my preference. At best, it’s a good night out (or in) with friends. At worst, it’s a drama-filled ordeal fueled by too many drinks and inevitable disappointment.

The holiday has always struck me as an amateurs’ night — a night when people who don’t normally go out on the town decide to suit up and jam a year’s worth of revelry into several hours. Much like St. Patrick’s Day, NYE is an excuse to drink and act foolish. At least St. Patrick’s Day is culturally relevant.

Maybe, I’m a New Year’s Eve Scrooge. Reading this, you might get that impression, but I’m not a complete curmudgeon. Looking back, on past NYEs, I can’t pinpoint a specific trauma that has soured me on the night. I just think it’s just overrated is all.

And I’m not the only one. In an unscientific poll I recently conducted, nearly everyone voiced similar attitudes. Young and old, the question of what to do on NYE evoked a tired sigh.

So why the push? Who’s telling us this night matters and needs to be observed? (I blame Dick Clark.)
I’ve long ago abandoned the notion that Dec. 31 is a significant in any way other than being a reminder that I need to buy a new “Far Side” calendar. So far, none of my NYEs have born any resemblance to sugary drek that Gary Marshall is currently hawking in theaters. Based on what I’ve gleaned from previews, the script to “New Year’s Eve” is basically:

Attractive Female Celebrity: I’m sad because I’ve got no one to kiss at midnight.

Attractive Male Celebrity: Me, too.

Attractive Female Celebrity: OMG! We should like totally kiss!

Attractive Male Celebrity: OK.

(Repeat for 90 minutes.)

Around Rutland, local bars and restaurants get on the New Year’s bandwagon. Special dinner packages are offered — reservations are a must. Some of the clubbier bars charge covers and feature “exclusive” parties, trumpeting themselves as being the only place to be when the ball drops.

Up in Killington, the scene is a bit more serious. Naturally, the visiting flatlander population has certain expectations, and venues like the Pickle Barrel and Wobbly Barn are happy to oblige. It’s great for business, to be sure, but being packed into a loud club with next season’s cast of “Jersey Shore” is, for me, possibly the worst of all the NYE scenarios I can imagine.

As of writing this column, the infamous night is still ahead of me. While some ideas have been bandied about, a plan has yet to solidify. I’ve decided to take a hands-off approach this year and let my friends decide for me. (Though I’ve already taken some Machiavellian steps to insure an outcome that is to my liking.) In the end, a good New Year’s Eve for me will be a low-key night spent with friends.

Parties aside, the end of the year is a time to look back and ahead. I’m not a resolutions person — I don’t write lists or do personal inventories, at least not in a formal sense. But I do regard the start of a new year as an opportunity to look at where I am, where I’ve been and where I’d like to be this time next year. With that in mind, I look forward to what 2012 brings.

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