In my "old age" I have found New Year's Eve to be very sentimental. Especially in the last two years I find myself trying to mentally push back the tears into my eyeballs and not allowing a single tear to stream down my cheek. If I let that happen I would have to explain why I was crying and I don't think I could put words into it.
Growing up stateside, far from the island of Puerto Rico, we had many traditions that my parents valiantly tried to preserve. We would meet with other "refugees" and squeeze into one house. Food adorned every inch of table, counter or shelf available. Benille: seasoned, shredded, slow roasted pork. Arroz con gandules: rice with chick peas. Bacalitos: a fish dish. Guava paste and cream cheese, a variety of chips and dips, store bought desserts and if we were really lucky, there would be some pasteles; our version of tamales.
It was part of our tradition to wear a new out fit. Every piece of clothing or jewelry had to be new; right down to your skivvies. The new clothes represent a new beginning. It is believed that whatever the condition in which the New Year finds our property, that is how our property will stay for the rest of the year. Out with the old and in with the new. One of the more fun traditions was to grab a suitcase and run out the door at midnight. This action would symbolize traveling through the new year.
Instruments were always brought out around 10:00 and traditional songs were song in Spanish until 11:59 at which point everyone would gather around the TV. The host/hostess would be frantically trying to find the channel that shows the pictures from Times Square so that we could see the infamous ball drop.
The ball would drop, everyone would scream, drink a toast and you would grab your love for an extra long kiss. And then you would go around and kiss everyone in the house which could take as long as 15 minutes because the house was packed. The women would sing the traditional Puerto Rican song, El Brindis del Bohemio, and usually end up crying. I never understood why but as I get older, I am beginning to understand.
There is a deep resonance of days past and days yet to come, of dreams forgotten and dreams to achieve, of loved ones remembered and of loved ones yet come. It is a time to look back and a time to look forward. I think it was especially important for these families since they left their own families to pursue a dream, the American Dream. And each family in their own way was succeeding in that dream. There were teachers and engineers, law enforcement and realty professionals, small business owners and students. Each one grabbing hold of the ideals of a free nation and holding on with all their strength. So much to be thankful for and so much to anticipate.
Prospero Ano Nuevo!