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NH revelers plan variety of celebrations for New Year's

Union Leader Correspondent

December 30. 2012 9:02PM
Barbara and Dick Bachler have been selling plenty of party hats and noise makers to people who plan to ring in the new year in their living rooms. (BARBARA TAORMINA PHOTO)

New Year's celebrations for 2013 are smaller and family centered, but many traditions remain strong.

Nashua resident Olga Katsoupis always serves a deep-dish pizza, or vasilopita, on New Year's day. She cuts it into six slices and gives the dish a spin before each member of the family takes their slice. Whoever finds a coin baked into his or her piece of the traditional Greek dish can look forward to a new year of good luck and prosperity.

"Some people make a vasilopita cake or bread, but my mother made pizza so that's what I make," said Katsoupis who, owns Liamos Grocery, a Greek specialty shop.

And Katsoupis had plenty of homemade butter cookies drenched in powered sugar and other traditional treats on the shelves for New Year's eve. All over New Hampshire, people ring in the new year with different foods, songs and celebrations. In the past, Americans have headed out on New Year's Eve, dressed to the nines and ready to revel. But this year, some are opting to welcome 2013 with quieter, gentler partying.

According to a recent survey by the international toy company Hasbro, 75 percent of the country plans to pass on a big night out and spend the evening at home celebrating with family, friends and, in New Hampshire, copious amounts of Chinese food.

At the Lilac Blossom restaurant in Nashua, New Year's Eve orders started coming in right after Christmas.

"We have hundreds of orders, so we shorten the menu so we can accommodate everyone," said longtime employee Keri LaDrew. "We actually have to clear out a special area for all the bags, it like a sea of takeout."

And while people might be staying home for the holiday, they are still having some fun ringing in the new year. Barbara and Dick Bachler opened their Salem store, Party 4 Less, last February and this is their first time selling party supplies for New Year's celebrations. Business has been steady.

"We have hats, noise makers, beads and balloons, which have been big," said Barbara Bachler, who was helping a few customers pick out New Year's decorations and tableware.

Although the Bachlers remember years when women would get out the gowns for big, glitzy dances, now that they are on the front line of celebrations, they say the trends is more toward small parties with family and friends.

A tough economy and uncertainty about the future may be behind a more mellow approach to New Year's Day.

Still, many traditions are rooted in the hope that the future will be better than the past. Customers at Tejeda Market in Nashua said Spanish-American families celebrate with big dinners of special pork stews followed by platters of apples and grapes.

Market owner Amalia Castillo said that some people begin eating a grape a minute with 12 minutes to go in the year. With each grape, people make a wish for the upcoming year.

In some French-Canadian communities, the promise of a better year came with a blessing from a grandfather or family patriarch.

But for many people, blessings, wishes and coins baked in bread are not sure bets. They take the business of making the next year better into their own hands with resolutions. Losing weight and saving money continue to top lists of New Year's resolutions, which, according to most statistics have a success rate of about 15 percent.

The other side of the New Year's equation, the out-with-the-old, all-is-forgiven aspect of the holiday, is easier, and most people welcome a fresh start and a clean slate. Some Scotch-Irish communities mark the end of the year with a roaring bonfire.

Derry resident T.J. Cullinane said he and a group of other families have been building New Year's bonfires for several years. Cullinane said he wasn't sure about the spiritual or mystical meaning of holiday bonfires, but standing in the cold with your feet in the snow and watching a huge fire light up the woods is definitely cathartic.

"It's a good way to put the past behind you and start looking to the future," he said.

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