I spent a great many years as a professional songwriter and musician, and have now been in the wine business for a fair amount of years as well. And in both lives, New Year’s Eve looms large.
For a musician, the night is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you HAVE to gig. It’s the best pay of the year. You can often make in a single night what you’d make in a month otherwise. But on the other hand, it’s the worst gig of the year; everyone is loaded, and behaving like … well, you get the idea.
For those of us in the drinks business, the New Year’s Eve conversations tend to all be about … well, drinking.
What to drink, where to drink, when to drink, with whom to drink, how much to drink, etc.
There also tends to be the requisite reconciliations of lament and hope, regret and redoublement, burial and birth, farewell and hello, the old and the new.
Truth be told, we’ve been raising cups of kindness for auld lang syne since long before even ol’ Robert Burns penned his immortal verses.
All of which is alright, I suppose, to a point.
But if you’re interested in tapping a different wellspring of celebration this New Year’s Eve, you might consider the Emancipation Proclamation, and Watch Night.
January 1st, 2013, will mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation’s issuance, making this New Year’s Eve the 150th anniversary of a Watch Night like no other.
Watch Night itself technically predates that deeply anticipatory eve back in 1892; it ostensibly began in 1740, inaugurated by the Reverend John Wesley — founder of the Methodist Church — as a spiritual alternative to the holiday debauchment already so de rigueur.
But the night took on a far deeper significance in 1862, when Black Americans in all corners of the young and tortured country waited through the night for news that they were going to be free.
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free …
No, the Emancicpation Proclamation did not officially end slavery. The 13th Amendment did that in 1865. But what it did do was clearly tell a brutally suppressed, oppressed, and enslaved people that their country believed in their freedom, and would see it realized.
So this New Year’s Eve, among the many toasts you raise, you might wish to include one to freedom.
And then one to the spirits of those brave enough and noble enough and kind enough and courageous enough and humane enough and true enough and pure enough and deep enough and real enough to recognize that we are all one, and that no system of governance should exist in immoral defiance of this truth.
And then raise one to the better angels within yourself; that you too might enact this truth in every moment of your life.
We are all one.
To read the full Emancipation Proclamation, please click here: