Happy New Year!
There is certainly a lot that happens at the end of one year and the start of the next. Some people reflect on the year that is finishing, and some people predict what will happen in the year to come. Almost everyone creates New Year’s Resolutions, which they fail to accomplish. I try not to put myself in little boxes of expectations, but this year’s New Year’s Eve made me wonder if there isn’t something to the theory that the first few moments of the year set the stage for the next 365 days of your life.
Until this year, I have spent every New Year’s Eve with my family, almost always anticipating the witching hour while desperately trying to stay awake, curled up on the couch in Tahoe with the Christmas Tree brightly lit in the corner and a book in hand. This year, was a bit different. Instead of being in Tahoe, I was in the Czech-Austrian-German border region with my host family. We went on a ski trip and I celebrated the coming of the New Year the Czech way. Which, for the most part, isn’t much different from the American way. Multiple families, music, dinner, kids on the dance floor – sometimes dancing, sometimes doing cartwheels, sometimes just talking. A lot of beer, champagne at midnight. The biggest difference, though, is what happens after midnight.
At home, we wish each other a Happy New Year and head to bed. “Normal” Americans are usually out somewhere, which means they might celebrate the New Year with a toast and then head home and then to bed. In the Czech Republic, however, the New Year is celebrated a little bit different. Yes, with a toast. But with a toast and fireworks.
Fireworks that make the biggest 4th of July celebrations seem tame. Because the Czechs do fireworks in a way that would make my father have a heart attack. They go to the store and buy themselves a box of fireworks. Then they put said box in the middle of a field, light the fuse with the same lighter they use to light up their cigarettes, and run like madmen. Families stand to the side and watch as the boxes turn into one rocket after another. Each box seems to hold thirty to fifty individual fireworks, as big and amazing as the fireworks I’m used to seeing at the fairgrounds or going off around the lake in the middle of summer. When you consider that five to ten boxes get lit in the field at the same time, you can understand why the brilliance of the show is a little frightening.
In addition to the simple scale – huge numbers of fireworks going off one after another, there is another difference. These fireworks don’t go as far into the sky; they probably only get about 30 meters before exploding. So the fireworks aren’t far off in the distance when they shower all their glory. Instead, they are literally above your head. Every so often, one falters, exploding with a frightening sound at eye level, or sending some of its fiery brilliance onto the cement merely steps away. But the overall impression is amazing. I only wish I’d had my camera with me, to somehow capture the amazing-ness of dozens of fireworks going off in close proximity.
But it wasn’t just the fireworks that made the first half hour of the year 2014 amazing. The stars, so bright earlier in the evening, were completely blocked by a thick fog that had settled into the valley sometime in the last few hours of 2013. Through the fog, you could hear similar sets of fireworks explosions going off all over the valley and echoing off the surrounding mountains and hills. Every so often, the fog lit up a brilliant green or red, indications of the fireworks being enjoyed by someone else far off in the distance. And just as our fireworks seemed to be wrapping up (this was a false appearance – two boxes/shows had yet to be lit), a light snow started to fall. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was actually snow or just mist from the thickening fog, but then the flakes were unmistakable, as was the silvery layer covering everything when we woke up the next morning.
The fireworks were amazing, the light snow that fell was my favorite type of snow, and the overall result was that the first few moments of this year were absolutely amazing. I can only hope that the wonderful feelings that accompanied the beginning of this year last for the next 525,600 minutes (give or take).