When you were a kid, making it to midnight on New Year’s Eve was a point of honor. First, you had to be old enough for permission to stay up that late; then you probably had a couple years of nodding off around 11 and being carried to bed by a babysitter. Finally, you possessed the stamina to make it — the fireworks, the cheering, the round of “Auld Lang Syne.” How magical.
Personally, though, by the time I was 15 — and the calendar rolled over from 1999 to 2000 — the thrill was long gone. Once I saw a few other time zones celebrating the stroke of midnight without being spontaneously obliterated by the Y2K bug, I had to wonder what I could possibly get out of watching CNN footage of crowds penned into Time Square, or the “drop” of a sparkly ball on a pole. It was thin joy after the feasting of Thanksgiving and the gifts of Christmas. Once everyone screamed “Happy New Year,” you noticed that this new year didn’t feel any different.
So why bother? Our hunger for ritual has to be part of it. Also, as an adult, you can justify getting shitfaced and spending a fortune on a cab (plus the Uber cleaning fee if you barf). But the way so many of us leave New Year’s Eve plans to the very last second — even though it’s a holiday that requires far more organizational foresight than most — shows that we treat the occasion as a duty, not a party. We hope that someone else will put in the work, invite us to something low-key and not too formal. A venue that affords easy travel. Minimal number of guests. Maybe some actual food.
If we were honest with ourselves, we’d agree that midnight is simply… overrated. It only takes a little experience with insomnia, all-nighters in college, unforgiving professional deadlines, red-eye flights and spooky late drives to realize that this transitional hour is pretty wack. How often do you commit to an early bedtime just to say, “Shit, it’s already midnight,” and let Netflix play the next episode? Midnight torments us through the year, and then it demands a tribute!
It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, for the 2020 festivities, I’ll be at a wedding ceremony that officially begins at 11:30 p.m. — hope they provide caffeine injections — but my favorite New Year’s Eve in recent memory wasn’t nearly so ambitious. My girlfriend Maddie and I were enjoying a getaway in scenic Point Reyes, California, and tried to book a prix fixe dinner reservation at our favorite restaurant there; they told us we’d have to be seated at 5 p.m. if we wanted a table. We accepted and gorged ourselves on a mind-blowing six-course meal, then returned quite stuffed to our cottage hotel, where we relaxed in the hot tub. Following that, we went back to our room and watched Bigfoot documentaries till we feel asleep — around 9:30 p.m.
And I’ll tell you what we missed: absolutely nothing. We woke up into the new year, refreshed and ready for whatever it had in store. We got back into the hot tub before anyone else was up.
I suppose what I’m trying to say here is, for those who love toasting and making out messily at midnight, January 1st, I get the appeal, and god bless. The rest of you: Shake off the peer pressure and do what you want. Life is fleeting, the future is rushing at us and corny tradition shouldn’t prevent you from spending the final minutes of the year on what matters most — including sweet, sweet slumber. Trust me, others will take care of the countdown and confetti. And the shouted conversations. And the hangovers. God, champagne should be illegal.