I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but a big part of my New Year's tradition, and Cathy's in recent years, has been going to our friend Anne's. She's the mother of our friend Ted (soon to be married and with some luck living in Iqaluit with his lovely wife-to-be Sarah). We figured out that there's been a New Year's party at her house each your for the past 10 years. And there are certain traditions that go with this kind of party.
Yes, there is drinking and plenty of friends. But as this is a Scottish New Year's there are rules. For example, red heads are considered bad luck. So if they enter the house, they either must leave before midnight or, if they remain, can't leave until sunrise.
All the men, sans redheads, are kicked out a few minutes before midnight (I have lamented, loudly, that in recent years this exile has gone from a few minutes to close to 15 or more) where we are given Scotch to keep us warm. Then, at midnight Anne literally sweeps out the old year and then sweeps in the new. Then the men enter the house left food first and give Anne a gift (normally just a piece of wood or some bread for expediency sake). Then you go up into the house where all the women are waiting, ling the staircase to give you a kiss and a hug.
After watching the fireworks (normally a brief affair in St. John's) there is the toast, which involves more Scotch. It's to absent friends and loved ones, where you pass your Scotch over a wooden bowl containing salt water. Then you drink.
This is followed by normally a massive buffet including honest to God haggis that Anne makes. Normally the party goes on until 4 a.m. or so. Those who stay the night get breakfast the next morning, normally consisting of the rare delicacy of fried haggis in bacon fat. There have been no fatalities from that breakfast so far, but that's kind of a miracle.
My first New Year's would have been in 1998/99, I think, although it might have been a year earlier. I know I wasn't at the first one. Sadly, I was just at the last one.
After 10 years of these parties we just marked what will likely be the last one. Anne lives in a wonderful house on Bond Street. However, the place is huge and is in need of some repairs. With Ted moving away it means it will just be Anne in this fairly massive house. Which means she's made the hard choice to sell it this year.
I honestly wish I had the money to buy it. The thought of someone other than Anne or Ted owning that wonderful old house makes me a touch ill. But I understand why the house has to go. I just hope the new owner fills it with as much love as Anne and her family have over the years.
Granted, I don't know when or if we'll be home again at New Year's. We missed the one in 05/06. Still, I'm going to miss the knowledge that it was going on regardless. It's a nice tradition.
The final party was a small affair, much like the first one was apparently. There was probably no more than 20 people through the house the whole night. In previous years it wouldn't be unheard of for 100 or more to go through the place. So it was a nice night. We left around 2 a.m. A bit early for us, but Cathy was dying of a cold. You know you're in trouble when you go to a party and bring vodka, 7-Up and Buckleys.
Still, I'm glad we were there. I would have been sad to have missed the last New Year's at Anne's.
Now, we have to figure out a new tradition.