Saying Goodbye to 2009, Hoping for a Better 2010

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Shirley Griffith. This week on our program, we find out how some people will be welcoming two thousand ten.


So what do Americans do New Year's Eve? Hillary Huesman is from South Carolina.

HILLARY HUESMAN: "I get dressed up. I look to go out. I'm usually single, and that is usually not a problem. This year I'm still making my plans. I haven't quite confirmed them yet, but probably a hotel ballroom-type scenario, black-tie event."

At a black-tie event, the men dress in tuxedos or dark suits and the women wear fancy dresses.

Hotels in many cities have special deals for New Year's Eve: dinner, Champagne and a party. Then people get a room for the night. That way, no one has to worry about drinking and driving home.

On New Year's Eve, some communities in the United States hold what are called First Night celebrations. These are events where no alcohol is served. The celebrations include things like music performances, art displays and fireworks.

Boston, Massachusetts, held the first First Night celebration in nineteen seventy-six. Since then the idea has spread internationally.

Some people might not have firm plans yet for New Year's Eve, but others know exactly what they will be doing. Joe is a twenty-one year old student at the University of Virginia.

JOE: "I don't really do a whole lot. I normally just spend time with family, go out to eat, hang out, wait for the ball to drop on TV."

Joe is talking about America's best known celebration on New Year's Eve. Hundreds of thousands of people crowd into Times Square in New York. They count down the final seconds to midnight as they watch a brightly lit ball slide down a pole on top of a tall building.


The first New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square took place more than a century ago. The ball was made of iron and wood and it was lit with one hundred lights. Today the ball is larger and covered in more than two thousand crystals.

Two other traditions for welcoming the New Year are a midnight kiss and an attempt to sing a song that almost no one knows.

"Auld Lang Syne," by the eighteenth century Scottish poet Robert Burns, is a song about friends and remembering times long ago.


A new year is a good time to start fresh -- and, for some people, a time to seek good fortune in the year ahead.

In the American South, for example, people might prepare a dish known as "Hoppin' John." They make it with black-eyed peas and ingredients like bacon, rice and vegetables. Eating it at the New Year is thought to bring good luck.


On New Year's Day, some families in the United States invite friends and relatives to an open house. Jill Cooper from Santa Fe, New Mexico, gave us a description.

JILL COOPER: "They're family parties, big open house-y kind of parties with lots of cookies -- too many cookies --and punch and eggnog. And houses are decorated, and you see your friends and you bop from party to party."

But that is not all she and her family like to do to celebrate the New Year.

JILL COOPER: "We try to do something outside 'cause we live in Santa Fe and we live right in the mountains. Everybody wants to go for a wonderful hike and start off with fresh air and all the things we're going to have in our lives the whole next year. And then we drop in on parties."

Some families like to take it easy on January first and enjoy a quiet day of rest. Twenty year old Malia is from Virginia.

MALIA: "I usually sleep in because we stay up late on New Year's Eve. And my family, we usually eat the leftovers of the desserts that we make for New Year's, or New Year's Eve and stuff, so. But, just relax, mainly."

But New Year's Day is anything but a day of rest for John Worster (WOO-ster), who lives in Idaho.

JOHN WORSTER: "I offer Catholic Mass, 'cause I'm a Catholic priest by profession, and so it is actually the feast day of Mary, Mother of God. And so we begin our Catholic way of understanding new year by just thanking God for Jesus' mother, Mary. On New Year's Day, after church we'll go out and sit in the goose pit and do some hunting for Canada geese and also ducks."

On New Year's morning, millions of television viewers watch the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. The parade includes marching bands and horseback riders. But the parade is most famous for its motorized floats. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they are all covered with flowers.

In Southern California, the weather on New Year's Day might be cold. But the skies are usually sunny and dry, even as other parts of the country might experience snowstorms.

A local group created the Tournament of Roses festival in Pasadena in eighteen ninety. The festival later expanded to include the parade and a big game in college football.

The champion teams from two college athletic conferences play in the Rose Bowl Stadium. This Friday, the Buckeyes of Ohio State University will play the University of Oregon Ducks.


Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? Hillary Huesman from South Carolina has a few in mind.

HILLARY HUESMAN: "I'd like to solidify my romantic relationship, lose twenty-eight pounds. I'd like to travel a lot more in twenty-ten. Two thousand nine was a long year -- struggled financially, like most of America. So I'm looking for prosperity in twenty-ten."

Malia from Virginia does not make too many resolutions. She says she does not want to disappoint herself when she fails to keep them. Joe, the University of Virginia student, is of a similar mind.

JOE: "I'm not a believer in resolutions for New Year's. I think that resolutions come when they need to throughout the year, when you decide that someone needs a change."

What about John Worster, the Catholic priest?

JOHN WORSTER: "I make a New Year's resolution every year and usually by the third or fourth of January it's already been broken, so...(Laughs).

REPORTER: "What kind of resolutions are those?"

JOHN WORSTER: "Oh, usually to lead a healthier lifestyle by eating better food and not drinking so much, so ... (Laughs)"

Jamar Negron, a high school student from New Jersey, has a few resolutions for two thousand ten:

JAMAR NEGRON: "I'm a fencer, so my New Year's resolution is just to become better at fencing. And better in the general sense: become better in schoolwork, become a better person, become a better writer -- become as best as I can be in all aspects of my life."


Holiday planning can be difficult when business has to come before pleasure.

We did interviews near the Capitol building here in Washington. One of the people we met happened to be the wife of a newly elected senator. Jill Cooper is married to Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico who entered the Senate this past January.

When we talked to her earlier this month, their plans for the New Year were still open.

JILL COOPER: "There was a chance that we would go on a trip to India and Afghanistan, but apparently we're not doing that. Since he's in the Senate and we don't know what's going to happen with the health care bill, he may not even be home. If we're home, we'll probably have dinner with friends."

We give the last word to Jamar, the high school student from New Jersey, and his hopes for two thousand ten.

JAMAR NEGRON: "Prosperity. Strength. Confidence. Equality. Good fortune. Goodwill. That everything will work out for the better. That I'll leave no stone unturned, and that I'm able to go to sleep at night with no regrets at what I've done."


Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Mario Ritter and produced by Caty Weaver. Tell us your resolutions and hopes for two thousand ten, and what you will be doing New Year's Eve. Post your comments at -- where you can also find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. We wish you all happiness and good fortune in the New Year, and hope will join us again next time for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.