Bill KirbyOnline news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Looking forward to 2012 after quiet New Year's Eve

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If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.

– Maria Edgeworth

I was in my mid-20s before I ever saw an old year become new.

Waiting up late the night of Dec. 31 was just not one of my family’s holiday traditions.

True to our rural upbringing, we went to bed at the usual time on New Year’s Eve and got up at the usual time on New Year’s morning.

It was very quiet, and, not surprisingly, so was the year that followed.

Now, it seems, everything is overdone. Loudly.

People crowd city squares to watch something fall at the stroke of midnight.

In New York, it’s a big ball. In Atlanta, it’s a big Peach (this year with added security.)

In Mexico, they eat grapes. Yep, on New Year’s Eve, many turn on the TV and wait for the midnight bell to ring 12 times. Each time it rings, they eat a grape for good luck.

They eat the grapes in Venezuela, too, but they also do something else – wear yellow underwear. It’s supposed to bring happiness.

Apparel is important to celebrating the New Year in Brazil, but the color is different. They wear white clothes to attract good fortune, and they generally watch fireworks.

They set things on fire in Colombia, too.

It’s called burning “Mr. Old Year,” a tradition in some cities. The family makes a large male doll that represents the old year. Then they stuff the doll with different materials.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, they set the doll on fire. This symbolizes burning the past and getting ready to start a happy New Year without bad memories of the past.

There are lots of other traditions. You might have some in your family.

In mine, it stays simple. We get up, drink coffee and read the newspaper.

It will tell us again that although the world celebrated the changing of its annual calendar differently, we should be encouraged that we celebrate at all.

I guess it’s the optimism of the human spirit, and most agree.

Last week, the Associ­a­ted Press released a survey that said – despite it all – we Americans are hopeful about 2012.

While acknowledging that 2011 is a year best forgotten, the Associated Press-GfK poll found 62 percent of us are optimistic about what 2012 will bring for the nation and more, 78 percent, are hopeful about the year their family will have.

Not only that, but the public’s expectations for the economy are at their highest point since spring.

We’ll see, but so far so good.

One day down; 365 to go.

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