New Year's preparations started the day after Christmas. The entire house had to be cleaned from stem to stern because she didn't believe in starting the new year with the dirt from the old year still hanging around. So she pressed Daddy and me into service. I won't bore you with the details but I will let you know that she stopped short of hauling all the furniture out into the yard so we were spared that.
After the house was cleaned we went to the grocery and she bought all the food and drink for her New Year's Day spread. We celebrated New Year's Eve at midnight by toasting it in. My father would pour a glass for all three of us, even me no matter how young I was. Even if we had continued with the New Year's traditions we would leave this out as we no longer drink. Right after that we went to bed because she rousted us out early on New Year's Day to begin preparations.
Mama's New Year's thing was to make a GIGANTIC spread of food to feed anyone who showed up. She would put both of the leaves in the table and there wouldn't be an inch of it that was uncovered and sometimes there was food on the counter as well. The TV would be blaring in the back room so we could hear the parades while we were working in the kitchen. Daddy would sit in there with his coffee and toast and periodically he would holler out to us to look at something and we would scootch over to the end of the counter and watch it through the doorway. Mostly though we just listened to the parades because there was too much work to do. I was usually set to slicing cheese, cutting celery and stuffing it with cream cheese, preparing the green onions, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, carrots, etc. Mainly the piddly stuff that I could do without too much supervision as she was extremely fussy in her kitchen. While I was doing that (I was slow) she would get out all the dishes, make dips, make her punch, and get the crock-pot going. She made the best punch. She made it non-alcoholic for the kids (spiked for serving to the adults) and it was delicious. I'm not sure what all was in it but I do know that there was ginger ale and orange juice and there was rainbow sherbet floating on top. There was more in it than that but it's been over 30 years now so I don't remember. In the crock-pot she would either make chili or chicken tortilla casserole. I personally preferred the latter even though her chili was delicious too. She also made egg salad and potato salad. When she was ready we would start setting all the food up on the table. She would direct me in arranging the cheeses and cold cuts on the plates. I would put several types of chips into the bowls she had that had little dip bowls that attached to the sides and she would instruct me as to which dips went with which chips. Then there were crackers and bread to arrange on plates and pickles and olives to put in the lazy susan. And of course, all those veggies I had sliced up had to be arranged on their tray as well. There were also cookies from the Christmas baking that went out as well. None of the holiday-specific ones, just the Tollhouse, oatmeal raisin and my favorite raisin-filled.
After it was all set up they started appearing. I have yet to figure out how they knew when it was ready but they did. Smoke signals, perhaps, I don't know. No invitations were sent or anything like that. It never failed though. About 5 or 10 minutes after we were done the doorbell would ring and people would start appearing. "Hi! Just wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy New Year!" "Happy New Year to you as well! Please come in and get a plate of food and something to drink." All day long this went on. Mama's friends, Daddy's friends, kids from the neighborhood, you name it. The men would gather around the door to the back room and watch football with Daddy and eat and then when they finished their plate they would leave and somebody else would be there to take their place. There were only two chairs in that room and none of them would sit in Mama's chair even though she wasn't in there. They'd either hold up the door frame, sit on a stool or squat on their haunches. It was pretty funny to watch, actually--which I did from the kitchen area since I was the beer-runner unless I was outside with the kids. Then they were on their own. Mama would host the ladies in the living room and they would sit there and chat for awhile and, like the men, it was a steady stream. As far as the kids, we would just sort of hang out around the food or make a sandwich and go ride our bikes and wreak havoc throughout the neighborhood before returning for more food.
It was fun to start the new year with our house full of friends like that. Normally it was so quiet and still in our home but at the holidays there were always people and talking and laughter. It was wonderful. Only hitch was that it all had to be cleaned up that night. No big deal though because I would eat leftovers while we were cleaning up and Mama would let me have a glass (or two as I got older) of punch spiked with the Vodka the ladies had been spiking theirs with. We all sort of weaved down the hall to bed on New Year's night.
I hope you've enjoyed another holiday flashback from the corner of the world where I grew up and I hope you all have a wonderful New Year in your corner of the world.