As we leave the year 2016 … really? I was just getting adjusted to the idea that 2016 was a new year. Nonetheless, as we enter into the 17th year of the 21st century, I was thinking about how people observed the passing of an old year and the beginning of a new one in the past.
As with other North American holidays, many families have their own traditions and routines during the New Year’s celebration. I can remember when I was young staying up past midnight, having sparklers and a few small firecrackers, watching the Times Square Ball drop, etc. But when my family became involved in the ministries of First Baptist Church, Troy, for a number of years I recall being at a “New Year’s Eve Watch Service.” Often playing games with friends at the church building, from 8-11, then gathering about 11 p.m. and giving thanks for the blessings of the past year and about 11:30 gathering around a several large tables put together in the form of a cross to observe and bring in the New Year by partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It was a special time.
Most common in the old news accounts are dinners, teas, and other sundry gatherings at the home of someone who decided to host an event at their home. These usually involved small-to-moderate groups of friends and family. Occasionally, some would hold a larger gathering as “the event of the evening.”
In much the same way, communities sometimes have had their own celebrations. Some have sponsored special events or gathering. And groups or organizations have at times organized gatherings for their particular organization to recognize the New Year.
Several towns in Miami County have held “First Night” celebrations at various times in the recent past. These have usually been good, safe celebrations where people could gather in various locations throughout the downtown and enjoy a myriad of activities while waiting to countdown the seconds.
In 2004, a group of Leadership Troy participants organized a “First Night” for downtown Troy. First Night is a family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration that happens in many communities around the country. The event was popular for several years.
As I have looked through past accounts of New Year’s celebrations, it seems that as much as things have changed, much has stayed the same. At various times, communities held special events, for example, West Milton on New Year’s Day 1892, held a parade in celebration of the new beginning. Included in the parade were people from Laura, Ludlow Falls, Potsdam (called Georgetown at the time) and Union. The Laura and Union bands apparently provided music.
During the same year, the Troy Fire Department held their “annual New Year’s evening banquet.” It was deemed a success and was open to all friends of the department. Three large rooms on the second story of the fire department were open and crowded with people and “eatables.” During those years, the fire department was located in the building next to the City Hall, on S. Market St.
In 1917, articles from the Troy paper reported that a number of churches in the county held services to reflect on the past year and look to the challenge of the new one. The “Watch Night” service mentioned above was a tradition of many churches for years. Again, reflecting on the things in which to be thankful for during the quickly passing year and seeking the blessings of God for the year to come.
Sporting events have always been a big part of the New Year. After staying up past midnight, I can recall sleeping late into the morning of New Year’s Day, then later watching Bowl games on television, especially if Ohio State was in the Rose Bowl. That was always a treat because it was in the days before every game of the season was televised. So, unless I went to a game or two with my grandfather, it was probably only the second or third time I was able to watch the Buckeyes play that season.
For several years, Troy had their pre-New Year’s sporting tradition with the Troy Holiday Basketball Tournament. After Hobart Arena was constructed and opened, Troy had a venue which could host large gatherings and, in this case, a multiple team tournament. The tournaments were held between Christmas and the end of the year. The championship game of 1966 was played on Dec. 30. Unfortunately, Troy could not complete a comeback and lost to West Milton that year.
Many years very little activity was recorded, as far as community events. The newspapers would acknowledge the passing of the old and ringing in of the new with business advertisements wishing everyone a “Happy New Year” and the printing of a litany of events in the city or county from the past year, but, otherwise, little else took place.
Through the years, I suspect, most people gathered with friends, family, and as church groups, organizations, etc. to ring in the beginning of a new year.
Whatever you are planning for this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, have great time remembering, celebrating, watching football and being with people, but remember, your life, or that of another, is not worth having too much fun.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to email@example.com