New Year's Eve is the last hurrah of the year, the culminating event in a holiday binge of eating, drinking and celebrating. It's a time to don glitzy outfits, reflect on the past, and ponder future resolutions. And then there's the kiss at the stroke of midnight.
Whether you ring in the new year by watching the Times Square ball drop from your living room TV or toasting champagne at an upscale nightclub, tradition makes a case for celebrating the new year with people you enjoy. According to English and German folklore, the first person you encounter in a new year—and the nature of this encounter—sets the tone for the rest of the year. A kiss is about strengthening ties you wish to maintain in the future. If a couple celebrating together doesn't take the time to lock lips, it doesn't bode well for the relationship.
For single people, there's a superstition that not kissing anyone portends a year of loneliness… and probably a lot of bad online dating. (OK, I made that last part up.) Then again, kissing some sleazy random who may or may not have a girlfriend is worse than kissing no one at all.
Passionate New Year's Eve kisses have featured prominently in popular culture. In Bridget Jones's Diary, a New Year's Eve kiss brings Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy back together. The Godfather: Part II also features an emotional New Year's Eve kiss, but this one's not about sexual tension. Instead, Michael Corleone gives his brother Fredo a furious kiss of death after being betrayed.
The New Year's Eve kiss at the end of When Harry Met Sally is the beginning of happily-ever-after for the two estranged friends, and it's just as memorable as the fake orgasm scene at the deli. Harry finally admits he's in love with Sally.
"It's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible," he says. Sally's shocked response: "That is just like you, Harry. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you."
Too bad we can't all have what she's having. Like any other holiday, New Year's Eve can put a great deal of stress on those of us without plus-ones. Last year, Mary, 40, of Brooklyn, NY, ditched New Year's plans she'd made with friends because she didn't want to be the one single person in the group. Mary stayed at home—where a New Year's kiss wasn't a possibility or a threat—and she ended up regretting the decision.
Jason, 34, of New York, NY, keeps the reveling low-key when he finds himself single come December. "I'm not going to go out stag with some vague hope of meeting someone to end the night with a kiss or more," he says. "It never happens. It just leads to drunken disappointment and a hangover, which is a terrible way to start a new year."
But even having a significant other doesn't guarantee a romantic smooch at midnight—though many couples aren't even bothered by it. Take Jennifer, 44, of Oklahoma City, Okla. She and her husband have replaced a romantic night out on the town with a family-friendly community event with their three children.
"Who has time for New Year's Eve kisses or money for a babysitter?" she says. "My husband says the New Year's Eve kiss is passé because we're too tired to stay up that late." Jennifer intends to share a New Year's kiss with all four loves of her life, even if it doesn't happen when the clock strikes twelve.
This relaxed, flexible approach seems to be the key to enjoying New Year's Eve, whatever your relationship status. Celebrate with loved ones in an environment that makes you feel safe and comfortable. The midnight kiss isn't so different from a New Year's resolution—despite your best intentions, you probably won't pull it off perfectly, if at all.
Christine Clifford, President and CEO of Divorcing Divas, a Minneapolis-based organization dedicated to supporting women as they transition through divorce, spent her first post-divorce New Year's Eve with one of her best girlfriends. The two women rented a limo, ate dinner at a fancy restaurant, and kissed each other on the cheek at midnight.
Besides kissing friends, Christine's got other suggestions for those of us who are single and not quite ready to mingle. "Close your eyes at midnight and remember your favorite kiss," Christine says. "Or get a big bowl of Hershey's Kisses, and eat a dozen of them at midnight." If you want to be really cheesy and aren't worried about embarrassing yourself in public, make a photocopy of your dream New Year's Eve date and give him or her a big smack.
Or take it from another very romanticized piece of popular culture and think, "A kiss is just a kiss."
How do you feel about the New Year's Eve kiss?
"New Year's, 1998. I was dating this redhead and she got so drunk that when midnight came around she kissed me for like half a second and then went off to go throw up. I brought her a glass of water, and was like, "Hey, you should drink this," and she said, "Don't tell me what to do!" and threw the glass at my head… and that was the end of that relationship," says Niles, 37.