I have a tradition to welcome the New Year. I smoke a cigar at midnight.
In a way, it's just like handing out cigars when you have a baby. We sometimes depict the year ending as an old man and the new one as a baby in a diaper. This is not so different.
Cigars have long been associated with wealth and influence. Smoking a cigar is a way of showing the world that you're prosperous. What more effective means is there to declare you have money to burn than to fire up an expensive cigar?
And each year, Santa helps me keep this tradition by bringing me cigars on Christmas Eve. He puts some in my stocking every year without fail, this year included.
There will be bonfires and fireworks, and they're nice in their ostentatious ways, but I prefer the quiet glow and flavorful smoke of a good cigar.
To say 2005 was not a good year would be a massive understatement. We took it on the chin in New Orleans, with Hurricanes Cindy, Katrina and Rita. The whole Gulf Coast was on the ropes at one time or another this year, and the referee is still counting over some places, uncertain if we can or will get up again.
This January 1st, I am certainly many thousands of dollars poorer than I was last January 1. At this time last year, I had a beautiful house, nice furniture, books and art and boxes of mementos and photographs of family and friends that are all lost to the flood brought by Hurricane Katrina.
But I will still light up a cigar at midnight. I will in my own quiet way remember what I have and not grieve for what I have lost. I have a nice place to live, food in great supply, clean clothes and hot water. I have a good job with challenging work, full health insurance and money in a retirement account. I have a TV and a DVD player, and music and a computer to amuse me.
And I have a lovely wife and a wonderful daughter, and family and friends who are happy to see me and eager to help when I need it.
It's New Year's Eve, the last day of 2005, and as I cross that threshold into 2006, I will not do so richer than last year. But prosperous? You betcha! Wealthy? Absolutely! Happy? Yes indeed.
Happy New Year!