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The First Night Can Be the Worst Night

Sometimes, all you can do on New Year's Eve is try to enjoy it

James Suckling
Posted: January 7, 2005

New Year's Eve should be fun. What better excuse is there to party than bringing in the New Year? But in fact, it's amateur's night out, where people who normally stay home hit the streets and most restaurants rip off everybody with overpriced set menus. Plus, we all try too hard to have a good time.

I have had a string of downers for New Year's Eve parties. There was the time I passed out on the priest's couch in Florence, even before the New Year arrived. On one 31st of December party in Paris, I asked a girlfriend to marry me. She said no. Then there was the year in London when the police wouldn't let us into Trafalgar Square to party with the midnight revelers. My buddy and I stood in a dark side street, cold and alone.

This year, I went to my local restaurant near my house in Tuscany with some friends and our children. The lineup of wines was good enough. I brought them from my cellar--a magnum of 1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, a bottle of 1996 Paolo Scavino Barolo and a bottle of 1996 Elio Grasso Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté. The food was good enough, too. We had six courses, from tortellini filled with rabbit to oven-roasted steaks. And fireworks were launched at the chime of midnight.

Some of the evening was cheesy. There was an Elvis-like singer mouthing some of the latest Italian hits. Elvis in Tuscany? But it was jovial enough. The children weren't fighting. We became slightly inebriated from the nectar at our table. But I just couldn't get into the evening. I could tell even while it was happening that it wasn't special or memorable. Just another night out.

The sad thing is that during this year's New Year's Eve party I began thinking about what I was going to do for next New Year's Eve. This was a good hour or so before 2004 finished. I promised myself that I would have a great New Year's Eve next time, and that I wouldn't be disappointed again. I would be on some beach or organize a big party at my house. But I would be damned if I didn't have a great time next New Year's Eve.

About 10 minutes past midnight, I returned home with the children. I was going to go to sleep and admit defeat for another New Year's Eve. But then I realized that it had not hit midnight yet in London, and I wanted to embrace the New Year. I would not be beaten.

I switched on the satellite television, lit up a cigar and toasted the New Year in London with a glass of 1991 Taylor Quinta do Vargellas. New Year's Eve may seldom be a perfect night out, but it's certainly worth celebrating wherever you are. Relax and enjoy it for what it is. The New Year won't be perfect, either. But you can get it off to a positive start.

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