Won’t Watch the Ball Drop

Ellen Mandeville[I am pleased to have a special New Year’s Eve guest post from Ellen Mandeville, whose tweets are always worth your while. Please help me welcome her to the train wreck for her first blog post!]


Sometimes what we are teaching our children by example seems innocent enough, but might actually be leading them into episodes of disaster. Such was the case with me and New Year’s Eve. This year, as with many years past, I plan to be fast asleep long before midnight.

Ball Drops, Neighborhood Serenades, Stashed Lipstick and Jake

The other day on Twitter, Lindsey Bridges asked, “What are some fun #NYE traditions you have with your #kids?” Her question got me thinking about how my personal New Year’s Eve beliefs developed and some of the experiences they led to.

I don’t know how old I was when I started staying up until midnight with my mom and siblings to watch the ball drop in Time’s Square, New York. Dad, the early riser, was smart enough to be asleep in bed. Never mind that the ball had actually dropped three hours earlier than when we watched it in Southern California, it was fun to stay up so late. One year, two of us got out musical instruments and attempted to serenade the neighborhood with Auld Lang Syne just after midnight. I have no idea if anyone heard or not; it was completely quiet except for our baritone and flute.

Times Square

And then I got a bit older and started going to parties to ring in the New Year. One year there was a big dance at the mall where my friends and I liked to hang out. My biggest quandary that night was the fact that I didn’t want to carry a purse, but didn’t have a pocket for my lipstick. I ended up tucking it into a planter and visiting it occasionally.

A few years later, I found myself in an entirely different situation. At a party with a good friend, we met up there with her boyfriend and another of their friends. I’ll call him Jake. I didn’t know anyone else at the party. My good friend decided to leave soon after midnight with said boyfriend and asked if I could get a ride home with Jake. He was like a brother to her and seemed to be a decent guy. “Sure, why not?” I responded.

Soon I was making my goodbyes to a few people I had chatted with. Being in a happy, exuberant mood, I was giving hugs. One man decided a hug wasn’t enough, so he gave me a big kiss, which included shoving his lower lip between mine. GROSS!!!

I hurried over to Jake, conveyed how disgusted I was and we made a quick getaway. Somehow that quick getaway, turned into let’s keep going really fast and crazy; here, you take the wheel!

Me and Jake*
(*not really)

Sitting in the passenger seat with my feet planted against the passenger door, I leaned across Jake and was steering while he controlled the gas and brake pedals. Well, mostly the gas pedal. We were flying! It was fun! It was exciting!

And excitement is what I was looking for on New Year’s Eve, wasn’t it? It’s what I had been taught to look for on those nights way back when I was young and could first stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop in Time’s Square. There must be something special to be found on New Year’s Eve because everyone was staying up late to find it. Right?

I was fortunate that night with Jake, because he really was a decent guy. After our crazy dual driving we ended up back at his house. And while he did try to convince me to do what the sane part of me knew was not in my best interest, he was decent enough to be polite and drive me back to my car at my request.

New Year’s Eve – hype without hope?

What is it with New Year’s Eve? Why all the hype? Why all the excitement? Why all the expectation? My New Year’s hopes for excitement, romance, or a new beginning have never been realized.

I believe it’s because whatever new beginning we might expect from the beginning of a new month—that happens to be the beginning of a new year—are based merely on what we can do for ourselves. And—for me anyway—there’s just not much to be found inside of myself to bank upon for real, lasting change. If I can’t find much within myself to bank on, then I doubt I can find it in another mortal being.

Which brings me to where we can find true change. We just celebrated the Author of true change invading our world.

“The perfect, fulfilling, satisfying life—the life that we’re all, one way or another, striving to find—was offered to us at the first Christmas.” (Carl Laferton, Christmas Uncut, p. 49, U.S. 2013 edition.)

Isn’t that what we’re looking for in our New Year’s celebrations and resolutions—a more fulfilling, satisfying life? We won’t find it simply because we took one calendar off the wall, put up another and screwed up our will to make a few resolutions. Nor will we find it in the ideal mate found at a New Year’s Eve party.

Hope Beyond the Hype

A more fulfilling, satisfying life is only found in a relationship with the One who created us.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5, ESV)

Camp Fox

At a YMCA camp—Camp Fox on Catalina Island in Southern California—Smitty, an excellent director, took that passage and replaced the references to Jesus with Jesus’ name:

In the beginning was [Jesus], and [Jesus] was with God, and [Jesus] was God. [Jesus] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through [Jesus], and without [Jesus] was not any thing made that was made. In [Jesus] was life, and [Jesus] was the light of men. [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [him]. (John 1:1-5)

Other cultures mark spring as the beginning of the year. Springtime: the death of winter is being overcome by new life. The western Christian church celebrates Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Perhaps instead of “Happy New Year!” or “Happy Easter!” we can teach our children to say “Happy New Life!” on Easter Sunday. Because it is Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave that overcomes the sin that ensnares us from living the contented, fulfilling life we all want.

It is through Christmas—God invading our world—and through Easter—God overcoming the sin which causes all disease, selfishness and criminality—that we can discover and know real, lasting and fulfilling change.

New Year’s Without the Hype

My husband, Todd, grew up in a family that went to sleep at a normal hour on New Year’s Eve and then woke up and said “Happy New Year” on New Year’s Day. Such an approach now makes sense to me. When we make New Year’s a night of excitement, what are we teaching our children? And to what lengths will they take their search to find that excitement when they grow older?

My best New Years’ experience happened in 2001 when the New Millennium was ushered in. Because my husband and I were sailing in New Zealand, it was summertime. We were en route from Bay of Islands in the far north to the port town of Whangarei a bit further south.

On December 31st, 2000, we had clawed our way south during a challenging day of sailing and dropped anchor in well-protected Tutukaka Harbour. Being exhausted, we went to sleep and heard none of the festivities that must have ensued from the plethora of boats anchored all around us. In the morning I awoke to the sound of the anchor chain being raised.

Tutukaka Harbour

Climbing out of bed and lumbering up to the cockpit, I discovered that we were under sail. It was a clear, gorgeous summer morning as we set our sails to steer a course between the protecting headlands to the open ocean. Rather than sleeping to all hours and nursing a hangover the rest of the day, I far preferred having slept well and being able to greet the morning with clear-eyed alertness.

I hope to teach our children to value such experiences as well.


Questions from Tim:

What do you hope for at New Year’s?
What does this reveal to you about your relationship with Christ?


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29 Responses to Won’t Watch the Ball Drop

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    This gives me a lot to think about. And the ball drop is always so anticlimactic anyway!

  2. lauradroege says:

    Lots of things to think about in this blog post, Ellen. I’ll be asleep in bed at midnight; I hope to be up at my usual time (3:30 am) to hit the gym! I’d rather stick with my routine than stay up late and party. I know from experience that I don’t do well mentally if I try to become a night owl, even for the oh-so-(un)important ball dropping at midnight. Fun? Not really. But some things are more important than fun.

  3. Great thoughts, Ellen. And let’s not forget: Until the Romans messed with the calendar, the New Year was actually at the beginning of Spring, not in the middle of winter. So in a sense, all this New Year’s hype — and the New Year itself — is as random as, say, the time zones.

    And on a not-entirely-blog-related note, if it’s of any interest to you, I think I feel a cold coming on. Must be those cats!

  4. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for reminding us that excitement is not the goal and that we can find our contentment and fulfillment in Jesus.

  5. Mary Anne says:

    No staying up too late for me either–my meds won’t let me. But I’ll be at a friend’s house for a party. The plan is to have a pinata labeled 2013 so those of us who’ve had a bad year can take turns whacking it!! (evil grin) Seems a safe way to let off some frustration . . .

  6. Bronwyn Lea says:

    It’s Ellen! and it’s longer than 140 characters!!! So glad to read your thoughts here. I’m 100% with you for a regular bed time and an anticlimactic new year… Both for my sake and our children’s’.

  7. Thanks for all the photos, Tim! They are fantastic.

  8. Liz Mallory says:

    I just love the idea of instead of looking back on new year’s eve, trying to hang on to some sort of excitement or memory from the year, we wake up the next day fresh and rested and can look FORWARD, enjoying the beauty in some special way like you did on that boat in NZ. Maybe a sunrise walk on New Year’s is a good idea for me this year 🙂

  9. Liz, a sunrise walk sounds like a great idea.
    Two new ideas:
    1. A pinata to *whack* out the old year
    2. A sunrise walk to welcome the new

  10. Rev. Carlene Appel says:

    Excellent column Ellen. I like the focus on Jesus. I saw an article that said instead of making New Year’s resolutions with negatives try positives. For me, I praise the Lord for another year to serve Him. I praise Him because after being let go by a Hospice I worked for over 6-1/2 years, the Lord opened a door and 2 weeks later I am ministering with a faith based, not for profit Hospice. Oh so many new opportunities to shine the light of Christ both with or without any words at all.

    We’ll be up but only because we’re late night people. My typical bedtime is 2 AM. We’re long time empty nesters with 3 absolutely adorable Grandchildren As such there’s no one except us at our home. We’re meeting another couple who are new empty nesters at the Olive Garden early evening in hopes of avoiding a crowd. After, we’ll go back home and will see the New Year rung in in New York (kiss, kiss), then in Chicago area where we live (Ooooh!!! A reason to kiss again!!!! Who’da thunk it!). So New Year’s Eve is rather quiet for us.

    Back before I was a minister and owned an entertainment agency on the East Coast, it was a busy time. I would usually go to sites I had booked and check to make sure everything was going OK, especially at the fancy hotels. But other than for business purposes, I don’t think I’ve ever gone to any New Year’s Eve celebrations as an attendee except to someone’s home just a couple of years ago and that was fairly quiet.

  11. God never ‘drops the ball’. That’s been my hope and my hope for 2014. Thanks for posting Ellen, and to Tim and others, may 2014 be a year the LORD changes, restores, renews us all.

  12. Tim,
    Thanks again for letting me grab the wheel of your blog for a day. It was a bit less life threatening than steering a car from the passenger seat!

  13. Jeremy M. says:

    It’s kind of funny. My family always celebrated New Years Eve when I was a kid. It wasn’t much, often wasn’t really “exciting.” It was mainly just another time to get together, eat more food than we should have, and play some board games.

    So, I’ve never really looked at it as anything too significant or exciting on its own. It was mostly viewed as a time to spend with family and/or friends. Just a time of celebration. I’m not sure what exactly my point is in all of it, but I guess it would be something like I think you can still celebrate it and stay up late, but not hype it up, make it all about excitement, or as some magical time of being able to find your ideal self.

    • “… I think you can still celebrate it and stay up late, but not hype it up, make it all about excitement, or as some magical time of being able to find your ideal self.”
      Well stated, Jeremy. And I agree. I was pondering this post on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and realized that I also don’t want to make the mistake of trying to wipe out all celebration with our kids at the turn of the New Year. Sounds like your family did it really well.

  14. This is so wonderfully written, Ellen, and speaks to my heart! We stuff so much in the idea of the New Year, loading pressure on us, when we could turn to Jesus and trust in Him to help us Change. As for NYE Tradition: my husband and I, too, stayed at home, watched a part of LOTR, stood on our porch at midnight, greeting the new year, went to bed :-). I’ve read your post as “New Year Post” in the morning, and it’s just the best start in the New Year the best priority to set: on Jesus. I think I’ll go to my music/writing room soon, sing him a song and thank him for all he has already done! Thanks a lot, Tim and Ellen! As a matter of fact: I wrote a post about whom to thank for 2014, and I referred to “New Friends” in it. Although we don’t really know each other, you are part of These “new friends” who broaden and deepen my view of life. Thanks for it – looking Forward to new tweets and Posts from you in 2015 (first already great!). Blessings, Claudia

    • Aw, thanks, Claudia! This year we had a family game night last night, more games this morning, skiing during the day, and then a New Year’s celebration dinner tonight. We kept the focus on God as creator and celebrating as a family rather than paying attention to what other people were doing elsewhere.

  15. Pingback: Won’t Watch the Ball Drop | Ellen Exploring

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