Traditions abound in the small town of Hope. Over the years, the town has been through many struggles, including opening and closing of factories, hard financial times, and personal losses, but nothing reduces the spirit of their community.
Every Sunday people gather after church for ice cream socials.
On the Fourth of July, the volunteer band muddles through the Star-Spangled Banner and Yankee Doodle Dandy until no one could take it anymore. Luckily, people sing so loud they drown out the tinny sound.
At Christmas, they sing carols and decorate the tree around the town square.
And every Easter, the Hopians have a parade showing everyone in their finest dress.
But the biggest annual celebration is on New Year’s Eve. The stores of Main Street line the streetscape with glowing white balls of bright lights, drawing a path to the town square, where they erect a giant disco ball to drop at the stroke of midnight.
Despite the cold sleet or snow, everyone in town congregates in the downtown area, drinking hot chocolate and spiced apple cider while listening to the high school band and dance troops display their talents. With the glow of every storefront, the streets are as luminescent as day.
But the most wonderful tradition of all is the ringing ceremony. Everyone in town lines up along the street ringing bells one by one. Then each person deposits papers in two different buckets, with the best and worst things that happened in the year. When full, the mayor lights the bucket of the worst of the year ablaze.
“May we leave the worst behind us and ring in the new year with love and laughter and celebrate a new beginning for all to share,” he says.
Then everyone in town goes up to the best bucket and grabs a wish for the new year from the best experienced by others. And once they have their wishes, each throws it into the air and a confetti gun explodes as the ball ascends to usher in the new year sprinkling wonderful wishes of joy and happiness.
Because no matter what each year brings, the hope of the future shines on everyone for the promise of tomorrow.
(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2023