Through all the changes of marriage, children and life’s uncertainties, one thing has remained constant each year: my New Year’s Eve celebration.
I’ve spent New Year’s Eve with the same three people since 1976. On our first New Year’s Eve together, we were just two young couples, college kids at the University of Minnesota. Gail and I feasted on appetizers at Bill and Mike’s apartment, went to dinner at a long-gone restaurant, then wrapped up the celebration at a party on campus. The next year we celebrated together again. Before long, celebrating New Years Eve became our tradition. By New Years Eve 1978, I was engaged to Mike and Gail was engaged to Bill; by the next year we were newlyweds.
Then came year after year when either Gail or I were pregnant, the four Ribnick children aligning closely in age with our four kids. At some point I began keeping track of what we did each New Years Eve, and a ceremonial “reading of the New Year megilla” became part of the yearly tradition.
Our celebrations were never lavish- often just a movie and dinner out. Many times we had progressive dinners, starting at one house and finishing at the other. We watched the ball drop in Times Square, counted down to midnight, and counted our blessings.
Once the youngest children were preschoolers, we began making New Year’s Eve a family affair. These are some of my favorite memories! We spent chilly evenings on sleds and toboggans, then warmed up with dinner, popcorn, and movies. Several times we checked the whole big group into a family-friendly hotel for the night, going swimming instead of sledding. Our two families got together often throughout the year, but what do we best remember? What do we most cherish? The tradition of all those New Year’s Eves.
The best family New Year’s Eve for me was in 1997. We gathered at our house to prepare appetizers to take to the local Ronald McDonald House. It felt good to begin our festivities with an act of tzedaka, and the kids loved pitching in. After the food was delivered, we went to see the play “Music Man” at a local theatre. We knew that there would be considerable traffic and that parking would be tight. Plus no one was keen on walking many blocks in sub-zero weather. So we rented a little bus! The driver took us door to door and everyone just loved it!
As teenagers, our kids often invited a friend or two to join our New Year’s Eve fun. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes came along too. Years flew by. The Abrams and Ribnick kids grew up and built lives of their own. Bill and Gail, Mike and I are back to where we began. The four of us.
I hope that this story inspires young families to create rituals with other families that are “megilla-worthy”.
Who are the friends with whom you’d love to build a lifetime of memories? Once you figure that out, think about how you might create something special together.
Choose a holiday, or a day that becomes a “holiday” because you have invested it meaning. Perhaps you’ll build memories around an annual day-after-Thanksgiving Shabbat dinner. Maybe you’d love to launch each new school year with an end-of summer picnic. You could take turns hosting an annual Oscar party or Super Bowl bash, or set off on a yearly hike, bike trip, or fishing expedition. Make it fun, make it something you look forward to each year. And above all, write everything down! You think you will remember the details from year to year. You won’t.
People have asked me if we will do something big to mark this milestone fortieth year. For us, what is “big” is simply being together, looking back and looking forward. We will read the “megilla” and laugh over funny memories that we revisit only on this day. We will recall long-ago movies and restaurants that have come and gone. Most of all, we will shake our heads with astonishment at how quickly the years flew by! And we will continue to count down to midnight, counting ourselves richly blessed for the gift of lifelong friends.