2014 Skelly Family Christmas
Halston, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, Andy Warhol at Studio 54
New Year's Eve five-course meal at Aureole (New York): $650
New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square
Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians at the Waldorf Astoria for New Year's Eve
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

K now where rich people go for New Year's? To bed. Before midnight. They wake up refreshed with a clear head and start right in to thinking about getting richer.

Anyway, that's the story the rich people tell. Bob Dylan said in "All Along the Watchtower," "You and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate." But it is a growing trend.

Generally speaking, about two-thirds of Americans celebrate the New Year in some fashion. Although about half stay home rather than going out.

Most years, fewer than 1 in 10 ring in the New Year at a bar, restaurant or organized event. About 3 in 10 don't bother to ring it in at all.

You can include the slightly manic denizens of Times Square among those who don't go to bed, bar or restaurant and don't stay home on New Year's Eve. About a million revelers flooded "The Crossroads of the World" last night and braved freezing temperatures to stand and wait six hours just to count down the final seconds of 2014. And make a lot of noise.

Times Square has pretty much been America's landmark New Year's Eve event since 1907. The Times Square Alliance estimates that over a billion people around the world watch New York's ball-drop festivities each year (counting both live views and views replayed later in the year, one suspects). That includes six in 10 Americans: two-thirds of all women and over half of the men.

Last night many of them were watching over someone's shoulder in a crowded family room, either their own or someone else's. About 23 percent say they entertain at home or go to a friend or neighbor's home for a party, where invariably there's a TV on tuned to Ryan Seacrest or Carson Daily (or, in really affluent households, both).

For some who venture Out, Out, First Night activities are popular. The idea behind First Night is that it celebrates the community's local culture, often featuring music, dance, comedy, art, fireworks, even ice sculptures and parades. (That's not really my community.)

It started in Boston in 1975. Some clean-cut civic types were looking to create a New Year's experience that would be wholesome, entertaining, broadly engaging and alcohol-free. Puritans. Don't they know Prohibition was fought for our right to party hearty, meaning drunk?

But broadly engaging it certainly can be. Last night's Morristown, NJ, First Night celebration featured more than 200 artists in 90 events at 24 venues in a town-wide party There were dance, theater, music, world culture, visual arts and children's events. Exhausting.

First Night celebrations were held in more than 260 cities in 2000, but with the financial meltdown, a lot of programs ran into funding problems. Many were scaled back, many were canceled. This year about 45 cities held First Night celebrations.

Still, even at their peak far more people just went to bed. Or even to a restaurant (long lines, poor service, replacement kitchen staff, jacked up prices).

Some religious congregations hold New Year's Eve Watch Night services. The faithful congregate around midnight and offer thanks for the blessings of the outgoing year and pray for divine favor in the coming year.

Watch Night can be traced back to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who learned the custom from Moravians who came to England in the 1730s.

Watch Night took on special significance to African Americans on New Year's Eve 1862, as slaves anticipated the arrival of January 1, 1863, when Lincoln had announced he would sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

Still and all, there were more people attending First Night venues these days.

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear ....

Times Square telecasts haven't changed much over the years. Shows feature a party-type talent show interspersed with live remotes of Times Square and the countdown to midnight as the ball drops culminating in a few—too few —strains of "Auld Lang Syne." Breathless announcers act like they didn't know the passage of time would continue into the next day, which to the planet is, well, just another day.

Actually two changes come to mind. One, production values in general and advertising in particular have gotten much slicker.

Sixth Annual Skelly Family Christmas Video

Two, New Year's Eve's traditional song gets nowhere near the air time it used to. After a couple of bars, they now switch over to "New York, New York."

The latter is a great song and creates a quintessential New York moment as walk-out music following a game at Yankee Stadium. But obviously some small set of city boosters with more ambition than taste thinks a home team baseball moment translates seamlessly into a national observance with a whole set of traditions and symbols all its own that have nothing to do with New York.

And national it is. Irrespective of time zone, nearly 6 in 10 people say they'll watch at least some of the New York celebration. Los Angeles, the place where dreams are made (and go to die) actually ushers in the New Year with a three-hour-old tape of Times Square.

New York's senior public party planners seem to lack a full appreciation of the moment they're lucky to be a part of. They did the same thing with the Belmont Stakes. That, unlike New Years, is a bona fide New York moment, but it doesn't work there either.

According to the annually conducted Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll, nearly half the respondents expect the new year to be a better year for them than 2014 was.

Of couse, last year 49 percent said they expected their fortunes would improve in 2014, but only a third now think that happened, versus 15 percent who said 2014 turned out worse. The majority saw little difference.

Those with a net worth of less than $100,000 were the most likely to say this year they would call it a night early. The wealthiest respondents, with a net worth of at least $5 million, were most likely to say they would entertain at home (19 percent), go out to a restaurant (16 percent) or go to a party (13 percent).

And New Year's Eve is evidently a young man's, or woman's, game. Five percent of those under the age of 40 said they plan to get to bed early, compared to 30 percent each of Baby Boomers and Affluent Americans over the age of 60.

But maybe you should take note of the much ballyhooed one-percenters, who said they planned to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 ringing in the new year. And they had no plans to spend it at home. Fill to the future, yo yo.

Just having a few of the neighbors over ....

Just the other day my son, a millennial himself, lamented that New Year's Eve rarely lives up to expectations. This struck a nerve, as memories flooded back of a succession of my own, younger man's New Year's Eves that failed to deliver on their lofty, and probably unrealistic, promise. A problem that appears to vanish over time. Recent New Year's Eves, neither extravagant nor ambitious, seem in retrospect to have been perfectly adequate.

If at first you don't succeed, lower your standards.

"Anacreontic For the New Year"
by Thomas Hood

Come , fill up the Bowl, for if ever the glass
Found a proper excuse or fit season,
For toasts to be honored, or pledges to pass,
Sure, this hour brings an exquisite reason:
For, hark! the last chime of the dial has ceased,
And Old Time, who has leisure to cozen,
Having finished the months, like the flasks at a feast,
Is preparing to tap a fresh dozen!
Hip! Hip! and Hurrah!

Then fill, all ye Happy and Free, unto whom
The past Year has been pleasant and sunny;
Its months each as sweet as if made of the bloom
Of the thyme whence the bee gathers honey -
Days ushered by dew-drops, instead of the tears,
Maybe, wrung from some wretcheder cousin-
Then fill, and with gratitude join in the cheers
That triumphantly hail a fresh dozen!
Hip! Hip! and Hurrah!

And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
And been bowed to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently passed,
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury -
Still, fill to the future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout, in hopes of a kindlier dozen!
Hip! Hip! and Hurrah!

2013 Index:
Dec. 10-4.48   Dec. 15-4.13   Dec. 20-4.18   Dec. 25-4.01
2014 so far:
Dec. 10-3.16   Dec. 15-3.47   Dec. 20-3.52   Right now: 3:82

The Story Thus Far ...

Current Christmas Spirit breakdown:

Pretty even distribution and an aggregate score slightly below last year's, when many readers were evidently starting their day with a Double Mocha Frappuccino laced with extra caffeine or a generous shot of Sambuca. This year is more in line with previous years. But if we hold true to form, they'll start drinking soon. They just started early last year.

Some people got a little excited and pushed the red sentiment pretty hard. Kind of like what happened in November in the mid-terms. But notably, the ranks of the Bah Humbugs rose as well. Gasp! Moderate voters are being drowned out by extremists on both sides. Get used to it.

Shhh! They're sleeping. Poor dears. I don't envy them the headache they'll have when they wake up. (12/21 - Oops, looks like they did wake up. And in such a jolly mood!)

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