Happy New Year! I have moved up from the warmth of the sunny beach to the cool high desert nights of San Miguel de Allende, a place that feels like a “winter home.” I’ve lost track of how many New Years Eves I have spent in San Miguel, but I am pretty sure I am nearing the double digits, if not there already. It feels good to be back again, after having missed the last two holiday seasons, 2019 due to my Sudan/Ethiopia trip, and 2020 due to…well…you know.
In addition to the beautiful spring-like weather in San Miguel, one of my favorite traditions is the New Years Eve celebration in the Jardin, the main tree-filled square. It’s the only place in my life I have ever gotten to experience a fireworks show so close that it feels like the plumes are raining down overhead.
I remember vividly my first time to experience the fireworks in San Miguel. Eagerly anticipating the stroke of midnight, the air was electric as the bells from the Parroquia, the giant pink Disneyland-like church marking the center of the historic center, began their deafening peal across the town square. This was my first New Years Eve outside the USA, so once the clock finished its twelve strokes of midnight, I was eagerly anticipating “Auld Lang Syne” to begin playing. Instead, what came out of the giant speakers was Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Really? On New Years? Well, just go with it, I thought. And like so many ways that the best memories are made when unexpected things happen, I will always remember that song now at the stroke of midnight. “I don’t want to close my eyes, I don’t want to fall asleep…”
I was torn on what to do about the celebration in the Jardin last night. With all the warnings of the Evil Omicron, I had allowed a little fear to creep in. But I have been boosted. And San Miguel is almost militant about their COVID restrictions, more so than any place I have been during the pandemic. Twice now, I have seen people called out by staff for not wearing a mask while waiting in line to be seated. Every shop or restaurant has an annoying young person stationed at the front door armed with a digital thermometer aimed at your forehead in one hand, and a bottle of sanitizer ready to squirt you like the perfume counter at Macy’s in the other!
However the crowds at midnight would be different. No one to police the mask compliance, and no bottles of hand sanitizer at the ready. But the thought of missing one of my favorite events due to an ongoing case of fear that has persisted for going on two years now didn’t set well either. I just kept thinking of the song, running through my head from that first experience in the Jardin, standing beneath the fireworks, plumes of colorful light bursting overhead to the lyrics, “I don’t want to miss a thing.” So I decided I would wear the snugger fitting KN95 mask. And I would only go as far as the edge of the crowd, not into it. Sorta like the metaphor which seems fitting for the past two years.
The crowds were lighter than usual, with the greatest concentration of people being around the sound stage, a place I didn’t care to go anyway. I was able to stay outside the perimeter of the Jardin, maintaining my distance, and only removing my mask long enough to pop the traditional 12 grapes into my mouth. Tradition, superstition, resolution, whatever you want to call it, I’ll try anything in attempt to ward off another run through the Greek alphabet of variants!
I wish the best for everyone in the coming year. We are well overdue for a good one. Here’s to hoping you “don’t miss a thing!”
Here are a few scenes around town during this 2021 season. Meanwhile, if you want to experience nine solid minutes of my amateur videography taken of the fireworks bursting in air over San Miguel’s Parroquia, the church and most famous landmark, click HERE.)