Tonight I have been thinking about different New Year's Eve celebrations I have attended. Usually, when I was a child, New Year's Eves were spent at home with my older brother and sister. Mom would make eggnogg (which I adored but had to be careful of because I was sensitive to eggs and milk) and we would sit up eating popcorn, cheese and crackers and wait for the ball to drop on TV.
Usually, even in my twenties, it was spent quietly, under similar circumstances. One of the most memorable occasions was in 1988, just after we had moved my husband's parents to their retirement home in Valrico. Carlos and I went down to spend part of the time with them, Christmas with my parents in Lillian, Alabama, then back to spend New Year's with his parents.
Little did I know, they had made reservations at the Tampa Cuban Club for all of us to have dinner and attend the New Year's Eve celebrations. I quaked in my shoes. All I had was a red silk blouse and a grey wool Pendleton suit of very simple lines. Now, when I had attended Carlos' parent's friends picnics in Connecticut and had been told it was casual, I had arrived in shorts only to find all the ladies in smart summer dresses and spiked heeled sandals. I could only imagine what New Years Eve at the Cuban club would be like.
His sisters and I went out to try to find something suitable for me to wear. Although I am the same height as these two, 5' 4", and at the time we all weighed about the same, about 120, they are long boned and long legged. I am long in the torso and short legged and have a smaller waist than they did. They would pull dresses that they would look good in with tiers of ruffles and lapped skirts, and I looked absolutely wretched...something like a Carmen Miranda gone bad. I swallowed deeply and finally bought a pair of rhinestone dangly earrings and decided what I had was just as good as anything that I was trying on...even though I knew I was going to be woefully under-dressed.
Sure enough, when we got there, many of the ladies wore long gowns. I remember one lady dressed in black and white taffetta. They were all glittering with sequins and rhinestones. My husband was in a sports jacket. His father was wearing a light colored jacket (he was still in New England mode and didn't have any darker colored jackets which were light enough for the warmth of a Tampa winter). I felt like a goose in a group of swans.
Some of the Cuban customs I was familiar with. New Year's Eve was toasted in with sparkling cider. The main course was roast pork. But, one custom I was not familiar with. At the stroke of midnight, all these elegant men and women grabbed the grapes and started gobbling them as fast as they could....seeds and all. I was aghast. Later, I found out that it was a custom to eat one grape for each stroke of the clock at midnight --per the Spanish custom and I believe that there was something about the seeds and number you could eat bringing prosperity.
Other memories of New Years include spending wonderful parties with my neighbors the Stankiewicz in Meriden where they would have friends over and we would play card games, Trivial Pursuit and other games until midnight.
Other times, we would go over to the Greniers and spend New Years with them. One memorable time I had to bring Carlos home early because he all of a sudden didn't feel well. He had spiked a high fever. The next night, I realized he was breathing strangely and I realized that somehow he had gotten pneumonia.
Tonight, Meg is spending New Years at a friends house. I am tidying up a few things and will go up and work on a quilt challenge for a bit before I go to bed. Like everyone else, I suppose, I'm thinking of goals for the coming year, and hoping for a more peaceful world and a year with more happiness and good things, and less pain and sorrow. Wishing you all the best in this world. Lisa