New Year's Eve used to be the biggest party of the year... now it's more like a second Thanksgiving.
I started to notice the change 40-some years ago. Back in 1982, the oh-so-posh bar at Beardsley's that New Year's Eve was three-deep all night-- packed with well-dressed local business bigshots, Springfield mobsters, their lawyers, and the semi-famous artists who had recently made the sleepy, dying mill town of Northampton into a chi-chi hot-spot. $40 shots of French brandy flowed all night while Champagne corks regularly popped, causing a few of the mobsters to reflexively duck for cover. Just two years later, M.A.D.D. had forced significant changes in drunk-driving laws, and New Year's Eve was never the same again. The Beardsley's bar was really slow that night.
Nearly two decades later an even greater societal shift-- 9/11-- changed the way we rang in the new year. I was running a gourmet take-out store in the Berkshires then, and on 12/31/2001 we sold a lot of fancy prepared food for Manhattan-based second homeowners who were just happy to be alive and safely nestled in their rural digs 150 miles north of the twisted ruins.
A lot of of other things have changed over the last few decades. People are more food-savvy and accordingly more inclined to prepare their own celebratory fare at home. People are also way more wine-savvy and therefore open to enjoying a great Chardonnay or Pinot Noir in lieu of bubbly fashioned from those same varieties.
But most of all, I think, people are just plain too busy and/or too tired to whoop it up as in days of yore. And so many of us just gather with loved ones on New Year's Eve in gratitude for making it through another year in one piece... while hoping and praying that one year hence they'll be in position to do the same.
Happy New Year to one and all! I suspect that 2024 will be a wild one.