Dr. Etiquette's Guide to New Year's Eve

1. Is it true that some religious sects observe New Year's Day as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision?

Yes, but thankfully, not Catholics -- as far as I know. (By the way, guys typically don't remember their circumcisions because the procedure is done shortly after birth. This became standard practice after criminologists began worrying that if you put a guy through this trauma later in life, you'd create a serial killer.) To combat the rise of pagan festivals, many years ago the Church increased its practice of bundling Christian holidays with socially acceptable pagan rituals so that people would at least go to services before watching football. Later, to institute yet another government holiday on which no mail was delivered and plumbers could charge even more, the Emperor decreed that we would forever remember New Year's Day as Jesus's first and worst hangover.

2. Is there a lengthy tradition of New Year's resolutions?

Certainly. As far back as Babylonian times, people resolved to be better to their neighbors, improve themselves and try to eradicate guilt from their lives. One of the most popular Babylonian resolutions (really) was the pledge to return a neighbor's farm tools. This is still popular in suburbia, where people vow to bring back those borrowed hedge shears and lawn mowers. But again, it is pagan culture that most influences us today. The traditional New Year at the vernal equinox was a bacchanalian orgy of drink and sex -- much like most hotel packages out there now. From these bashes arose the modern age's most popular resolution: to never drink again.

3. What are some other popular resolutions?

Another favorite is to swear off sex, especially when under the influence of highly powerful beer goggles or when your blood-alcohol level is sufficient to shut down all bodily control. One New Year's Eve several years ago, a young man took a first date to Mike Saletel's party in order to later impress her with his projectile-vomiting technique. During an exceedingly amorous moment when he was rounding second base, he had to roll over and empty his stomach. The only positive aspect to that experience was that he puked on a hardwood floor.

4. What is the best place to have a New Year's Eve party?

There are several attractive options, including hotel rooms, homes, bars, empty woodlots or the back seat of your car. The most important factor in planning a party is to make sure you hold it somewhere that you have no moral or legal obligation to clean up. In our youth, we were big fans of hotels secured by someone's older brother. Adjoining rooms were ideal, and on a good year, whole wings of the hotel would be rented out to aspiring juvenile delinquents. Beds were disassembled and put up against the walls to make room for the revelry, and TVs thrown out the windows to preclude any personal injury. The main problem with a hotel party is the lack of an easily accessible lawn. When drinking a beer every ten minutes and eating superhuman amounts of cheap pizza, nature will call at inopportune times, and a hotel room typically has only one bathroom. In the late '80s, one now-legendary individual at a lawnless hotel improvised when he or she found both bathrooms occupied -- one by someone throwing up, and one by someone sliding into home -- as we found out later that night on a trip to the ice machine, which had become a latrine.

5. What's the worst thing you've seen associated with New Year's Eve?

You might think it was that time in 1987, when Dr. Etiquette and Rob Sandberg passed a gallon bucket back and forth to catch our prolific output for more than twenty minutes, after which we bleated like sheep with an early-onset hangover of seizure-like proportions. But the real answer is that night in 1992 when several of us went to Tiff's in Minneapolis and paid forty bucks to eat and drink as much as we could throw up later (much like the early Romans). About twenty of us wound up passed out on Jill Erickson's floor. Nick Zeimetz woke up the next morning to find himself glued to himself with what he was told was Super Glue (it was only Elmer's), and the blood-curdling shrieks from the bathroom were hilarious. But a self-circumcision is what New Year's is all about.

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Patrick Osborn