By Jessica Yadegarank, Contra Costa Times
During her 20s, Kindall Reding went all out for New Year’s Eve. Cruising the Las Vegas Strip. Counting down in Manhattan’s Times Square. Hitting the slopes in Vail, Colo.
But, for the past six years, Reding, now 35 and a stay-at-home mother of two, has hosted half a dozen families at her home in Danville, Calif. This way, they enjoy each other’s company, share appetizers, blow some noisemakers, and “check it (the holiday) off the list,” so no one feels pressured to find a babysitter and plan a big night out.
“This way we can say we did something,” she says. “You feel like a failure if you don’t have plans for New Year’s Eve.”
But you don’t have to feel that way. Many of us place too much importance on what we will be doing on the eve of the new year. Against our better judgment, we may be inclined to put up with traffic, crazy drivers, and inflated restaurant dinner prices when we’d rather be sitting at home with a glass of wine. Why the conflict? It’s because of the symbolism surrounding the New Year’s Eve holiday, says Judy Levit, an Oakland, Calif., marriage and family therapist.
“It’s supposed to be a new beginning and a time to start again,” Levit says. “In a deeper sense, it can be an opportunity to reflect on your life and feel renewed hope for the future. But for some people, it’s a time to have terrible regrets and blame themselves for making the wrong choices.”
Levit calls New Year’s Eve a kind of Rorschach test — it holds different meaning depending on who you are. Some people enjoy being alone and realize that New Year’s Eve is just another night, she says. There’s nothing wrong with blowing a noisemaker alone and crashing before midnight. Still, in other people, the holiday may trigger feelings of insecurity so they need to make something of the night, she says. For many, having plans accentuates feelings of being special.
“If you are going to a wonderful party or someone is taking you out to dinner, you feel important,” she says. For some, thanks to that hyped-up midnight kiss, being single or romantically unattached can exacerbate feelings of sadness leading up to New Year’s Eve, says Danville-based dating and relationship coach Jeannine Kaiser.
“Of all the holidays, New Year’s Eve is particularly tough on singles because it’s such a date night,” Kaiser says. “People are usually out doing something romantic with their significant other.”
This rings true for Anton Shelepov, a Russian college student who lives in Martinez, Caloif.
“You just feel lonely,” he says. Shelepov, 20, says it’s even more of a bummer spending New Year’s Eve in America, since he’s not of legal drinking age to hit the bars and perhaps meet that someone special.
For Shelepov’s friend, Megan Sutton, ringing in the new year with friends is just as rewarding.
“You just want to start the New Year off right, with friends,” says Sutton, who is also 20 and lives in Martinez. “I usually know what I’m doing a week before. I always like to dress up.”
Samantha Gaw of San Francisco admits that her relationship status helps her justify quieter celebrations, and enjoying them. This year, Gaw, 29, and her boyfriend are considering drinking Champagne in a hot tub somewhere or throwing a low-maintenance dinner party at home.
“Low-key sounds much more appealing to me than high expectations,” Gaw says. Her boyfriend, Irvin Szeto, 33, concurs. “I do feel a little pressure to do something for New Year’s Eve, but it is less and less every year,” says Szeto, adding that crowds annoy him and is happy staying home and watching the countdown on TV. “Like birthdays and every other holiday, the older I get, the harder it is to care that much.”
Indeed, holiday pressure isn’t limited to New Year’s Eve. Think about Christmas, which is associated with warm and fuzzy feelings of perfect families, Levit says. Same with Valentine’s Day, and its promises of roses and romance. “Love is depicted as a lover on Valentine’s Day, but you could show love by giving to other people,” Levit explains.
Ultimately, the culture defines so much of these expectations for us that we feel we have to live up to them, Levit says. “Just remember, when you’re watching the count down on TV, it looks like everyone is having the time of their life. The reality is that half of those people are trying to have a good time, wondering why they’re not, and thinking, ‘Wasn’t it supposed to be better than this?’ ”
Want to keep the maintenance and expectations low for New Year’s Eve? Here are five options:
- Ask a like-minded friend to spend the evening with you. That is the extent of your plans. You will decide what you want to do when the mood strikes.
- Invite five friends over and ask each person to bring an appetizer dish. Play cards, board games or watch movies.
- Watch the ball drop on television and go to sleep. With the money you save, treat yourself to a special dinner and entertainment one weekend in January.
- Invite five friends over for a cocktail party. To save money, ask each person to bring a cocktail recipe and the ingredients for the cocktail in addition to a sleeping bag. No one will be driving home.
- Spend New Year’s Eve cooking dinner with or for an elderly friend or relative, or someone who would otherwise be alone during the holiday. You’ll get their year off to a great start.