Watch Night in the United States dates back to at least 1770, when St George Methodist Church in Philadelphia held this New Year's Eve service. Charles Wesley had adopted it from the earlier practice of the Moravian Church. Snopes.ccom has a great article on the history of Watch Night services. In 1855, C. H. Spurgeon gave a powerful sermon (click here to read it), for a Watch Night service in a Baptist church.
The Fisherman's Chapel, an interdenominational church in Port OConnor Tx holds a Watch Night service on New Years Eve which we went to when we lived on the coast. It was a great and happy way to spend the evening and ring in the new year! Many other churches (especially small or non-denominational ones) have renewed this tradition and will be holding services tonight.
Fireworks on New Year's Eve is also a huge tradition in Texas. When the boys were little, the family gathered over at Mom and Dad's house, the men built a small bonfire in the driveway and the kids popped firecrackers and shot off fireworks as long as they could stay awake. One year, a whistling spinning firework stayed low to the ground instead of shooting up high. It somehow got behind Nicolas and chased him for several circuits around the drive before shooting off into the street! From then on, we called those "Nicol Chasers"! There will be community fireworks at the rodeo arena here in Blanket tonight - and I am sure the Volunteer Fire Department will be standing by just in case!
Paul bought Pickled Herring, which was his mother's traditional New Years Eve supper. My family ate Black Eyed Peas for dinner (lunch) on New Year's Day. Collard greens are a "must have" New Year's food for many southerners.
My favorite tradition, the one Mama taught us, was to sing Auld Lang Syne. This old teapot seems to carry a lesson for us. It was made by Copeland (Spode), and was expensive when it was made, 130 years ago. High quality, and worthy of sitting on a fine table. It's been cherished and used a lot in the intervening years.
The spout broke off and has been rebuilt. The handle snapped at some other time and has been glued back on. The lid was lost, and has been replaced with one that doesn't fit. It's crazed, chiped, stained and shows its age in wear. It could be in worse shape I guess - but it's hard to see how!
But it is still beautiful. If we wanted to use it, it would still steep a nice cuppa tea. And we can still read the words written on it so long ago - and they still are just as moving as when Robert Burns first wrote them:
"Let's take a cup o' kindness yet
For days o'Auld Lang Syne."
Let us remember, tonight and in the year to come, that the old things we have - and the old ways, habits and patterns of life - still have a lot of happiness to offer. Let us be thankful tonight.