Jo Ann Jaacks: What is our fascination with New Year’s Eve?

English Poet and Playwright TS Eliot said “To make an end is to make a beginning.” Considering that one of his most famous poems, The Waste Land, has a theme of the disillusionment of the post-war generation and sterility of the modern man, this particular Eliot quote seems very upbeat and positive to me.

When I lived at home, we celebrated Christmas Eve with a meatless menu of carp, herring, shrimp and homemade pierogi.

In my older days, NYE was a wild bacchanalia. At one party that I threw, a Cuban friend asked for a pot of water at midnight. That’s when I learned that throwing a bucket of water out the door is to signify renewal in washing away your problems.

In Germany, fireworks are very popular and every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in all of Europe, attended by over a million people. I was once one of those million.

When I was married and living in south Florida, my husband and I enjoyed celebrating at one of the large hotels. It was an interesting experience to dine, drink and dance with a group of strangers. Of course, when the clock rang midnight, we were no longer strangers. We could also take a limo home since the champagne flutes were always being filled.

I am not sure whose original idea it was, but my husband and I both got out a piece of lined paper and wrote down eight resolutions for the new year. We shared the lists, and then he filed it in his home office drawer.

Some of them were doomed from the start. Mine: I am going to take a course in learning German. (All I remember are curse words.) His: I will not gamble on the horses so much. (The “so much” clause really made me laugh.)

I now believe that when we end a year, we shouldn’t burden ourselves with resolutions that are usually fairy wishes. It’s more productive to offer gratitude for all the good that happened, the joy of friends and family, the sorrows we overcame and all the things we learned. Then we can welcome an unknown year bearing a shiny new beginning.

Two days before Christmas and eight days before New Year’s Day, I won a raffle — something I have never achieved before. It was a beautiful collaboration in a Christmas stocking filled with nostalgic candy and games. I know just the person I will be giving this to. No fireworks needed.