Andi’s New Year’s – Part 2

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December 31, 1882

What a long, tedious, noisy day. And a longer, noisier, more tedious evening. By the time Aunt Rebecca ran us ragged with all of her New Year’s Eve’s preparations, I was so tired all I wanted to do was go to bed. However, I was not allowed to slip away. Maybe if I were six or seven years old, but I heard rumors that (at least here in San Francisco) any boy or girl over the age of ten parties until midnight or afterward.

Back on the ranch, everyone is too tired to do more than say “See you next year” when we all head for bed at our usual times. It’s kind of a Circle C joke. Chad gives our cowhands the night off and sends them into town with a special monetary gift. “I know you won’t be back here until next year!” he hollers as they ride off. They laugh and wave, grateful for such a generous boss.

Afterward, Melinda plays the piano and we sing our favorite hymns. Mine is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Then we end the evening by singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Our family puts the old year, with all of its hardships, behind us and we pray together that God will bless us in the upcoming new year. Then it’s off to bed. New Year’s Day is a workday on the Circle C ranch (unless the new year falls on a Sunday, Then it’s off to Sunday services).

This city’s New Year’s Eve festival was completely different from anything I am used to. Aunt Rebecca is a dedicated Christian woman. I know this because she’s always harping on me to act like a Christian young lady. But many of her guests did not act like Christ followers, if you ask me. But it is not my home, nor Mother’s. And elderly relatives are respected, even if they act a little crazy. Her guests from Los Angeles were not the problem. No, indeed. It was the strangers from this city, the drop-ins that just wandered inside. I had no idea that on New Year’s Eve, the wealthy people up and down Nob Hill and Pacific Heights (and probably other places) throw their homes wide open. It appears that “the more the merrier” is the theme in this city. To me it was “the more the noisier.”

Ladies and gentlemen, while certainly conducting themselves in a manner worthy of visiting Rebecca Carter’s home, flooded in and out. Auntie’s maids and kitchen staff were hard-pressed to keep up with the food and drinks. Children of all ages ran up and down the stairs and even slid down the bannisters. My nephew and nieces (Levi, Betsy, and Hannah) didn’t look shocked at all.

“Aw, Andi,” Levi said, laughing. “I’ve had two years of this since we moved in with Aunt Rebecca. I’m used to it by now.” He grabbed a hat off the hook and darted out the door. “I’m off to see my chums the next street over.” And he was gone, without a word to Kate, his mother, or to Aunt Rebecca, or to anybody.

As the evening wore on, I wore out. Levi returned looking stuffed and tired. I made sure I had that silly, round, dark fruitcake in hand as midnight approached. I just wanted to throw the dumb thing and retire. I carried it around with me until Levi burst out, “I threw the fruitcake last year, Andi. It made such a mess. But don’t worry. You don’t have to clean it up. That’s what Aunt Rebecca’s maids are for.”

It’s like everybody goes a little crazy on New Year’s Eve in the city.

As midnight approached, I felt nervous, like everybody was counting on me to make sure Aunt Rebecca’s household was spared poverty or misfortune. What a silly tradition! I listened for the church bells and watched for the moment when the door would be thrown open.

Midnight came and sure enough, church bells all over the city began to chime. It sounded like the entire city was alive with pealing bells! “Ring out the old, ring in the new!” I stood on the porch, transfixed at the sound. In the distance, over San Francisco Bay, dozens of fireworks shot into the air. Red, blue, green, and yellow. What a sight!

I was so taken by the sights and sounds that I almost forgot my cue. The open doorway and the “Welcome, New Year!” shout brought me back to my senses. I hurled the fruitcake and hit the door dead center. Splat! The cake crumbled and fell every which way. (What a waste of a good fruitcake!)

A crowd three or four rows deep spilled out of Aunt Rebecca’s and onto the porch. Others from the sidewalk hurried up her wide stairs and shoved their way into the crowd. I was not prepared for what happened next.

Everyone paused and listened for the church bells to go silent. As the last stroke died away into silence, every person young and old, large and small, boys and girls, and men and women, pushed into each other’s arms and gave each other kisses. I stared, mouth agape. Then I pushed my way past legs and billowing dresses. There was no chance anybody would give me a New Year’s kiss.

Too late. A boy about my age grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed me. He pushed me away and yelled, “Happy New Year!” Then he was gone. I was so surprised I stood there like an idiot. Bad mistake. By the time I escaped inside and ducked into the kitchen, two more boys had caught me. Unbelievable! I was so angry I nearly burst into tears.

“Andi?” A quiet voice. Mitch’s voice. “I saw you run indoors. Are you alright? The boys didn’t mean anything by it.”

I was not alright, but I nodded. “I reckon I’m a spoilsport with all these odd customs,” I whispered. “But stealing kisses just because it’s New Year’s doesn’t seem right. It smacks of Johnny Wilson’s bad manners a couple of years ago.”

Mitch put an arm around me and chuckled. “At least you didn’t hit any of those youths.”

I sniffed back my annoyance. “I don’t even know their names.”

Mitch squeezed. “The city folks are used to this kind of thing. I personally don’t care for it, and I am sure Mother will decline Aunt Rebecca’s offer of any further New Year’s Eve festivities. You stick close to me. I won’t let it happen again.” He released me then and held out his hand. “Come along. We’re singing “Auld Lang Syne” and then everybody is retiring.”

I clasped Mitch’s hand and looked up into his face. “Thanks, Mitch.” By the time I’d lost the flush in my face, I was ready for the final “bringing in the New Year.” The street crowd had disappeared and only Aunt Rebecca’s overnight guests remained. We all gathered around the table for a final hot drink and then around the piano while one of Auntie’s guests played “Auld Lang Syne.”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

Everybody sang all of the verses. (I only know the first and the last). For the last verse, everybody linked arms like it says and sang with deep feeling. This brought tears to my eyes and I was ready to forgive Aunt Rebecca for the ruckus she allowed to overtake her mansion that night.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere
And gie’s a hand o’ thine.
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

When the last notes fell away, the older gentleman offered a prayer for the new year, just like back on the ranch. That’s when I forgave Auntie all the way.

As I climbed the stairs, made ready for bed, and cuddled under the covers next to my sister, I thought, Thank goodness that’s over.

I could not have been more wrong.

Note from Mrs. M. Believe it or not, the church bells, the fruitcake, the open doorway, and all those strange customs, like the mad scramble to give and receive “New Year’s kisses,” is true from the 1800s. German immigrants introduced the “kissing” tradition from the Old World. It caught on rather quickly with the rest of the Americans.

Go to part 3 >>

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

11 thoughts on “Andi’s New Year’s – Part 2

  1. Oh. My. Goodness. What terrible customs! Definitely not something Andi would like. Kisses from strangers? Ugh. Throwing fruitcake at a door? Yuck. Swarms of people you don’t know flooding into your house? Shudder. No wonder Andi did NOT have a good New Year’s Eve. A really interesting post, though, It is always fun to learn how other people celebrate, even though it turns me off as much as it did Andi. I can hardly wait to find out why the
    miserable experience is obviously not yet over. How much worse can it get?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, gross! (throwing fruit cake and kisses from strangers, disgusting!) I’m so glad things have changed!! Can it really get worse?! Poor Andi!
    Happy New Year!


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