Worldly New Year’s events

Posted Dec. 31, 2010, at 7:20 p.m.

What did you do on New Year’s Eve, the night when the Fates demand to see our darker side? Did you end up in jail?

The head of the juvenile court in Boston once promised my mother that I would end up in state prison. Well, I am 70 now and the chances of going to Thomaston (now Warren) are slim. I am just too tired for aiding and abetting.

I digress.

I couldn’t make up my mind on New Year’s celebrating. The early plan was a quiet (well, you know) dinner at Conte’s followed by intermittent napping until the ghost of Dick Clark showed up televised in Times Square.

Then, Cowboy Larry and Sarah announced they were coming to town, from Austin, Texas. We had to find something exciting to do since they did the two-step in some honky-tonk every other night in Texas. I did my international research. There was still time to fly around the world to celebrate the holiday.

Several proposals were considered and rejected, such as anywhere in the county of Los Angeles, where ex-Press Herald staffer David Himmelstein is enjoying the good life. It seems that, like Iraq, people in Los Angeles County like to fire guns into the air, forgetting that items propelled into the air (such as bullets) eventually come down. The LA Times reported that is one memorable year deputies responded to 777 calls of people illegally firing guns, a dramatic increase over the previous year’s 526 calls. Police said 16 people were injured by falling bullets, if you can believe it.

That’s nothing.

I scrupulously rejected the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, especially for New Year’s Eve. The feisty neighbors there celebrate by throwing refrigerators, furniture and televisions from the balconies of their high-rise apartments. Police are “determined” to put an end to the tradition of lawlessness and gunfire on Hillbrow’s streets. But they say that every year.

Duck!

You would think that our pals in Scotland, who wrote “Auld Lang Syne” and invented scotch after all, would perfect some holiday celebration. You be the judge.

The Scottish new year celebration, called Hogmanay, includes settling debts (my oil company would be thrilled), “first footing” and the “Burning of the Clavie.” The Clavie, a barrel of tar and wood shavings, is nailed to a post, set alight, then carried clockwise around the town, until set to burn on a hillside stone altar.

No wonder that Bone Idle Brit David Grima sets fire to every idle dory in the Owls Head area to celebrate any holiday, any excuse.

In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico expatriates stuff a life-size male doll with things that have bad memories or sadness associated with them, and then they dress it up in old clothes from each family member. At the stroke of midnight, this “Mr. Old Year” is set on fire.

I would fill “Mr. Old Year” with credit card bills, then start all over again.

Apparently, burning is quite popular on New Year’s Eve.

People in China believe that evil spirits roam the earth, so on New Year’s they seal each window and door with paper, then burn crackers to scare the evil spirits. The fire kills the interior demons and the paper stops the exterior demons from visiting, you see. (Sounds like the old days in Haight-Ashbury.) Once you are done with cracker-burning in China, you might want to spend a chilly midnight with Mongolia’s nomads drinking vodka and fermented mare’s milk.

Count me out.

In Spain, celebrants eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (one each time the clock chimes) on New Year’s Eve. This peculiar ritual originated in the 20th century when freak weather conditions resulted in an unseasonable bumper harvest of grapes. Not able to decide what to do about so many grapes at Christmastime, the king of Spain and the grape growers came up with the idea.

At least it’s better than fermented mare’s milk.

I decided to let Cowboy Larry make the decision.

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