One of the more exciting things about childhood and the New Year was being allowed to stay up past my normal bedtime. On New Year’s Eve, most of my family would gather at my grandparents’ house to celebrate. The night would be full of food, fun, games and, sometimes, even a little square dancing. Around the normal bedtime for the kids, the adults would shoo us off into the billiard room where the younger family members would lie down and pretend to go to sleep. We kids usually listened to the chatter and laughter from the other room while giggling about how funny everything sounded. The adults didn’t care that we were still awake and would often turn on the TV in the kids area so we could all watch the countdown to the New Year.
The special I watched most often during those years was New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Starting in 1972, Dick Clark and celebrity guests and musicians would gather together amidst massive crowds in New York’s Times Square to party until the ball dropped at the stroke of midnight. As a fan of American Bandstand, I already enjoyed watching Dick Clark every Saturday, so being able to watch the New Year’s Eve broadcast felt like a pleasant bonus. The kids room and TV special fit in well with the party atmosphere being enjoyed by the adults in the other room.
Dick Clark hosted New Year’s Rockin’ Eve from 1972 to 2004, when he was unable to continue with the job after suffering a stroke. Regis Philbin took over the 2004 hosting duties and Ryan Seacrest co-hosted with Dick Clark in 2005. Seacrest took over hosting duties from 2006-2011, with Dick Clark returning for one final appearance on the show’s 40th anniversary special on New Year’s Eve 2011. The show has been a consistent pop culture phenomenon for what seems like my entire life, though I was almost a teen when it first debuted.
Watching the ball drop in Times Square each year has continued to be a tradition in our home for the past four decades. These days, the celebration is much quieter…just JT and I hanging out together while trying to stay awake until midnight. I don’t watch as much of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve as I once did now that Dick Clark is gone and many of the musical acts are less familiar to me. We normally tune in just in time for the countdown. Once that’s done, we toast the New Year, watch a few minutes of the local fireworks on TV, and pop our heads out the front door just long enough to wish the neighborhood a Happy New Year. We’re usually asleep by 12:30.
Do your New Year’s traditions include watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve each year? Have you ever been to Times Square to watch the ball drop in person? Or are you the type who’d rather just go to bed instead of staying awake until midnight?
Whatever your plans or traditions, I hope that you’re having a wonderful holiday season.
Happy New Year!