Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Kerry McLean: Becoming a mum made me ring in the changes when it comes to New Year's Eve celebrations

Family affair: Kerry and with her husband Ralph and children, Tara (10), Dan, (8) and Eve (1)
Family affair: Kerry and with her husband Ralph and children, Tara (10), Dan, (8) and Eve (1)

By Kerry McLean

So that's Christmas done for another year.

The crackers have been pulled and their dodgy jokes forgotten almost as soon as they've been read out.

Even the thriftiest of cooks has given up the ghost of getting more meat off the turkey carcass and only the coffee-flavoured chocolates remain unclaimed in the sweetie tins.

Presents have all been opened and, if you're anything like us, the mountains of wrapping paper and boxes that housed the children's gifts were gathered up, stuffed in the car and deposited at the town dump the moment their gates opened on Boxing Day.

It's a similar picture all around the country, but there's one thing happening at our house this weekend which may not be too common an occurrence.

A good week ahead of most households, we're dismantling and putting the tree and all the decorations away - I know, it seems far too early, but we have a tradition, or rather superstition, in our family that means we have to have all things connected to Christmas out of eyesight before the bells toll on New Year's Eve.

My granny says it's to avoid bringing bad luck from the old year into the new, but I've always suspected that it's just her cunning way of getting the house back into order quickly. A fastidiously tidy lady, her tree used to go up on Christmas Eve and come back down on the 26th.

While she has widened those dates a little as the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren visiting her has expanded, I can still detect her relief when everything is returned to its rightful place.

That's not the only tradition we stick to on New Year's Eve. There's not a hope of you getting into my house on January 1 unless a kind soul with dark hair and a lump of coal in his or her pocket has crossed the threshold before you.

I still burn with embarrassment when I think of a blond-haired neighbour who came to wish us all the best when we moved into our first home together. We'd carted all our belongings in just a day or so before the end of December, so hadn't had a chance to meet those neighbours who'd been out and about, staying with friends and family.

I hadn't managed to arrange a suitable candidate to first-foot our home that morning, so when he arrived at our door on the evening of the first day of the new year, there my poor neighbour stayed, stuck on the front step. All the while I offered tea and homemade biscuits but barred his entry, like a cross between Mary Berry and a particularly fervent bouncer.

That was back in the years BC, Before Children, when we'd have been out celebrating the night before, partying to the wee small hours and understandably our organisational skills on New Year's Day didn't stretch much beyond sticking on the telly and dining on tea and toast.

It's a very different picture today. Where once we'd have been living it up large, returning home at 5am, now we're getting up at that time with the toddler. I take my hat off to any parent who can still have a wee glass or two of something strong and manage to function like a normal human being. That, I'm afraid, is completely beyond me. If I indulge, the next day sees me become an amalgam of classic Hammer Horror movie monsters - I have all the movement and vocal dexterity of The Mummy with the bloodshot eyes of Christopher Lee's Dracula.

Each glass taken seems to equal one day's hangover for me now, so I don't even try. The closest I get to alcohol now is a liqueur chocolate and even then I have to go easy.

But despite that, I have to confess, I enjoy our new year celebrations much more now than I ever did before. We've no problems with taxis, no encounters with weeping or angry revellers. We stay at home, friends and family come to us and we toast the new year with a mixture of champagne and lemonade. Our New Year's Eve is peaceful and here's hoping the year ahead proves to be as well, for my family and yours. Happy New Year!

The Kerry McLean Show, Monday to Thursday, BBC Radio Ulster, 3-5pm

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