A quieter countdown to New Year's Day

Some in Baltimore prefer to skip the late hours and libations usually associated with the holiday

December 31, 2007|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,sun reporter

By the time the ball drops in Times Square tonight, 500 Baltimore senior citizens will already be reminiscing about their New Year's celebration Friday afternoon at Martin's West.

Mary and John Scott, husband and wife for 54 years, partied with peers from across the city at the recreation and parks event. She and her husband had "a magnificent time," said Mary Scott, 71, taking to the dance floor to "shake it up."

Tonight, though, she plans to be in church.

Conspicuous New Year's Eve carousing might have its fans, but many revelers prefer to shun midnight madness for more intimate and low-key ways of welcoming 2008.

"Over the past few years, I have heard a number of friends reinforce the fact that they're not big fans of New Year's. Too much build-up that leads to an inevitable letdown," says Ann Mack, director of trend-spotting at the international ad agency JWT. "After all, lines at bars are long, covers to get in those bars are extraordinary, and prepaid, all-you-can-eat or all-you-can-drink events tend to be overcrowded and overpriced."

At least one Baltimore establishment frowns on wretched excess.

Tonight at Grand Cru, a wine bar, there will be no cover, and proprietor Nelson Carey has limited party hours from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. "It's been my philosophy as the bar owner that I don't want New Year's turning into this big thing that revolves around midnight," he says.

Some 75 guests are expected for an evening of jazz, and while partygoers can linger after the performance, there will be no requisite rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" at the stroke of midnight.

At the Lakeland Recreation Center in Southwest Baltimore, director Lemuel Thomas has also planned an event that departs from party protocol. The center's free New Year's Eve Teen Jam that takes place from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. is a way of keeping kids safe, Thomas says.

Monique Hodges, 14, has been a regular at Lakeland recreation center since second grade and plans to attend today's party. "I get to be with friends, my mother will be there, and I get to talk to everybody," Monique says. Then she'll go to her grandmother's home up the street and stay up until midnight. "I think the majority of teenagers like stuff like that," she says. "They want to experience childhood while they can."

In Baltimore's Tuxedo Park neighborhood, residents take turns throwing an annual New Year's potluck party. The adults sip wine and play a parlor game involving charades and cultural trivia that "keeps everybody completely happy for hours," says Sarah Wolfenden, a regular participant with her husband and three children.

The neighborhood kids, about two-dozen of them, wreak havoc with Silly String, fling homemade confetti, turn a study into a discotheque. One year, Irish dancing broke out. It's the kind of event where "spontaneously something always happens to make everybody happy," Wolfenden says. At midnight, guests make a mighty clatter with pots and pans. "The little kids are so cute. [The party] is this huge, big thing in their lives," she says.

"We've never been interested in spending New Year's Eve with a bunch of drunken strangers, and we especially avoid being on the road when the bars let out," says Debbie Jones. Some years, she, husband, Andre, and son Ben light a fire and make an elaborate dinner at their North Baltimore home. This year, she says, "We'll be going out to an early dinner and then to a movie with friends. If we have the energy for it, we'll gather at someone's house after that. If not, we'll be home before midnight."

New Year's Eve fatigue appears to have increased family-friendly get-togethers on New Year's Day, says Mack, of JWT. "It's a much better way to kick off the new year than dealing with hassles and hangovers."

She's "not sure if this is a trend or a generational phenomenon," Mack says. "I remember my aunt always hosting a big New Year's Day brunch when I was young. And my friends and I have all reached our 30s, so dealing with sloppy salaciousness on New Year's Eve sounds less appealing than it did in our 20s."

At tonight's interfaith service at St. Ignatius Church some 800 Baltimore residents will come together to pray "for our city and our world," says Donna Price, the event's coordinator. "There's no better way to spend a New Year's Eve than to celebrate life both coming and going."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.