New Years Eve

New Year’s Eve. The time to celebrate the old and welcome the new. Major cities around the globe boast extravagant parties, open bar, buffet, fireworks, and champagne toasts at the magical moment when the last grain of sand slips through the hourglass of 2011. We pop the bubbly and clink glasses to new memories and old friends. There are toasts and laughter and kissing once the  countdown begins– a flurry of celebration and a nighttime of magic. 

Personally, I have not experienced one of these New Year’s Eves. Each year I search for a cheap, super chic party in a major city so I may laugh gayly while sipping some fruity mixed drink and wearing at least one sequined article of clothing. When this search proves less than fruitful I turn to creating my resolution list, mixing inevitable events with vague references to verbs followed by the word “more.” 

My 2012 New Year’s Resolutions:

-Get one year older

-Graduate college

-Exercise more

-Cook more

-Blog on a regular schedule…more

And by 11:59pm on December 31st, I stop scrambling for last-minute plans, down an extra glass of champagne, and contemplate my reasons for failing yet another new year’s celebration. Frankly, I’m New Year Eved out. 

So what is the hype? Even before When Harry Met Sally and Billy Crystal professed his love to Meg Ryan amidst the cheering crowd and soft melody of Auld Lang Syne, we have been fascinated with New Years. The new year is full of the hopeful promise that forgotten friends will be reunited and current struggles will soon become distant memories. It is a night of secular confession, silently acknowledging last year’s mistakes and becoming absolved as soon as the digital clocks blinks 12:00 (or 24:00 depending on location and military time preference). We are Cinderella but instead of the night ending at the stroke of midnight, our magical evening has just begun. Anything is possible.

For me, anything includes the feeling of fulfillment at the birth of this new calendar year. Maybe there is no ideal template for wish-making, hand-holding and speech-giving at the start of 2012. After all, January 1 is just another day to reassert one’s self as an individual trying to understand his or her place in the world. But one thing is for sure. I’m adding a new resolution to my list:

Plan early.

Sparkling Champaign Cupcakes

Happy New Year. 

NYC for the Holidays

The Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center is big. Like really big. An emblem of nature in the concrete jungle of New York City. I wonder if the evergreen feels out of place, like King Kong atop the Empire State building looking out at the sea of miniature bodies and automobiles winding through towers of business and stature. The tree stands in the name of tradition, for tourists and locals alike, who bustle past for last minute sales and ice skate with their loves ones’ under the golden statues.

Finals ended on Wednesday. After handing in my last exam, I jumped in the car with Jen and sped northwest from the small town of Lewisburg, PA to one of the largest cities in the world. My weekend was filled with holiday reminders: holiday shopping booths in Grand Central and Columbus Circle, Macy’s window displays, caroling Salvation Army volunteers with bells and hats. It was impossible not to get caught up in hussel and bussle of the city’s energy, counting down the days until December 25th. If only it was snowing…

But I felt a special connection to the traditional Norway spruce, strung with 30,000 environmentally friendly LED lights and illuminated for all to see. For one, this year’s 2011 tree was found and transported from Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania just 15 minutes from my college hometown. Both of us had traveled from the Keystone State all the way to the center of New York City to officially bring in the holiday festivities. We traveled separately but ended up at the same location, one by choice and one by fate. Which was which I wasn’t sure.

The tree also symbolized my own relationship with NYC, my simultaneous admiration for and apprehension of permanent growth and development in this urban environment. How many of my friends had moved or were moving here after college graduation? How many had dreams of becoming corporate business women, successful actor or fashionistas frequenting exclusive parties and meeting influential people in this very city? I wondered how similar I was to this beacon of holiday cheer, a being temporarily blinded by the brilliance of the city silently longing for a place to stretch my roots in an unknown world. The tree’s life in Rockefeller Center would be little more than a month–not enough time to grow a new ring around it’s grainy wooden center. But what a way to go. Loved and admired by millions of people everyday. If everyone’s last moments could be that grand.

I’m home now in upstate New York, baking gingerbread cookies and listening to Mariah’s holiday station on Pandora. Our family tree, while much smaller than it’s NYC brother, is covered in lights, tinsel, and ornaments. The branches will soon provide a home for boxes covered in bright shiny bows and bags with snowmen and smiling Santa faces. I’m knitting again, this time a dark green scarf that I hope to have done for a gift just in time. Time to be home for the holidays.

A Blue Crumbles Christmas

The Pandora station is set to Let It Snow, online gift sales have skyrocketed and Hershey’s kisses in red and green are flying off the shelves. Finals weeks is in full swing and stress levels are high. Starbucks’ gingerbread lattes are back, the boys next door are sitting around a fire wearing Santa hats and my calendar is on its very last page. Christmas time is here. 

On Thursday, members of the Bucknell Dance Company went to a local senior citizen home to perform for some of the residents.  We arrived a little before 2pm and the room had already been prepared, an amphitheatre of wheelchairs and Velcro sneakers. I pushed play on the CD player and the dancers began. This is what the holidays are about, I thought as feet jumped and bodies spun in time to the music, sharing our joy with others. At the end of the performance, we passed around small cards with pictures of snowmen or candy canes, the words Happy Holidays scribbled in blue pen. It was a small gesture to be sure but I couldn’t think of a better way to spent two hours on a bright crisp December afternoon.

 Late last month, my friends from freshmen year created our very own pre-Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate friendship and attempt recipes our moms had painstakingly explained over the phone. There were logistical issues–foldout tables, number of chairs, size of the turkey–but by 6pm, the food had arrived and everyone had a place at the table. Plates were filled with turkey, salad, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, fresh-baked bread, roasted vegetables, cheesy potatoes, pies, cupcakes and wine. We gave thanks to long-lasting relationships and great food while asserting our independence. All too soon we would be conducting our own orchestras, harmonizing the casseroles dishes with the turkey pan and number of placements required for a Thanksgiving meal. It was a glorified game of playing house and by the end of the meal, the men were going back for second helpings of pie while the women took to the kitchen, complaining about the lack of counter space and missing Tupperware lids. 

Our house, fondly named Blue Crumbles for its historically weak building foundation, recently geared up for the holiday season. Tonight we will be hosting A Blue Crumbles Christmas complete with festive chocolates, cheese dip and my mulled wine recipe from Denmark. The tree is decorated, the lights are up and the stockings are hung with care. Although none of us can believe the fall semester of our senior year will be over in a few short days, we are celebrating in the only way we know how. Hot chocolate, friends and a little bit of peppermint schnapps.

My life is still very much that of a college student. I attend class, do homework and see friends without the added worries about a mortgage, enough vacation time or reconnecting to loved ones. No matter how many people get accepted to graduate school, get job offers or finish Teach For America placement tests, the words grown-up and mature remain distant spots in the horizon. But these are not fixed destinations for we are always growing and maturing, experiencing new “firsts” and meeting new people. The holiday season is the chance to examine the beauty in your life in the same way one examines a snowglobe amidst flakes of white.

But for now, let’s be thankful for good food, great friends and families who love us. While fear of the future– fear of the unknown–will never completely subside, we should all snuggle up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate knowing the figurings in the swirling white snow are just where they belong.

Happy Holidays.