I’ve been lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve in many different locations: near to home; across the country; and on other continents. The fireworks display over such varied locales as The Strip in Las Vegas, The Champs-Elysees in Paris, and Times Square in New York City is always brilliant and exciting, no matter where we are.
The most unexpectedly boring New Year also turned out to be the most evocative…for a variety of reasons.
The boring part was…London. I am pleased to see that London has now joined the rest of the world in welcoming the New Year by setting off fireworks. But in 2001/2002, they did no fireworks, fanfare, nothing. We had brought a number of teenagers with us on this trip to visit the theater district, see a few shows, and enjoy the festivities, not realizing that the festivities themselves would be nonexistent.
We all had a great time, visiting museums and places of historical merit, attending a couple of musicals, etc. but we were all looking forward to seeing the New Year celebration, London-style. We went down to Trafalgar Square, as that is the area events involving pomp and circumstance often take place, giving ourselves plenty of time to find a section where we could all stand together. We had plenty of company…hundreds of fellow revelers were there already, and as the hour of midnight approached, so did many, many more people, soon totalling in the thousands. Plenty of policemen were on duty, as well, keeping us all organized neatly behind metal stanchions. As the hour approached, the buzz of excitement continued to grow, as expected. But then someone asked a nearby policeman about the fireworks. No fireworks, was the response. But what was going to happen? Nothing, was the answer. But, then why were all of us here? His surprising response was that he and the rest of the police force had no idea why. That no sort of celebration was scheduled, and in fact not even planned, and yet thousands of us showed up every year, much to the police’s dismay, and so they were obligated for safety reasons to show a presence and make an effort to keep us all protected…from ourselves. But why we had arrived in the first place was a total and complete mystery to them.
In disbelief, we all stayed well past midnight. But it was true. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. So, in a confused, whispering mass, we all drifted away and back to our homes and hotels, quite tired, a little befuddled, and very disappointed.
This post continues in Celebrating the New Year, part 2: The Evocative Side of Things to be published 10 Jan 2013.