I mentioned it in my last post, but I’m going to tell you all again. I love this time of year! While a lot of people find themselves in a 4-week state of stress, I always seem to find myself giddy with excitement. Even though I am 23, I am always in a gleeful headspace every year when the Christmas and New Year period rolls around.
Just like my love for all things Christmas related (I am known to make my friends do irrational Christmas related activities at all times of the year – like visiting Noël stores in Quebec City for hours on end during spring break ….in April, or prank calling friends with a rendition of Jingle Bells … in June and even blast Justin Bieber’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” on repeat year round), I’ve always loved to celebrate New Years. Admittedly, I’ve never quite understood why people place so much emphasis on this single day – it is after all only another day – but nonetheless, I am never one to turn down an excuse to celebrate and be happy whilst surrounded by those that I love.
In the years since turning 18, I’ve experienced all sorts of New Years Activities, including house parties, clubbing til 5 in the morning and even a few abroad. For this blog post I was going to talk about how I started 2015 in a friends apartment in Amsterdam. While it was a fun way to bring in the New Year, I kept getting flashbacks of the 2013/14 transition and how out-of-the-ordinary that particular celebration was. So, I’ve decided to keep my Dutch New Years for a later date and will instead tell ya’ll of how I spent the last moments of 2013 and first moments of 2014 boot scootin’ in a hall in middle-of-nowhere Montana.
Lets first set the scene. If you’ve been following my posts you’ll know that December of 2013 saw me pack a bag(s) with 7 months worth of gear and head to Montana, where I’d be participating in a student exchange for 5 months before travelling in the following months. My flight to America was long and exhausting – travelling to Montana is not an easy task. I flew from Sydney to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and then finally touched ground in Great Falls some 30+ hours later. Initially, I was going to be met by some close family friends who I’d be staying with for the week over New Years before heading down to Bozeman to start my session abroad. Unfortunately, they had all fallen ill with a nasty flu, but luckily they had family in Helena (who I’d met and spent some time with on my last trip to the States) who were happy to pick me up and have me stay with them before uni began. When the small 25pax plane landed at Great Falls International Airport, I was delighted to see an abundance of snow! The small city was a large white blanket of it. Walking out of the airport, I was met by an icy -12C chill, to which I was informed was quite warm in comparison to the weeks prior, where temperatures had dropped to -23C (little did I realise that -22 was to become the daily average and the coldest temperature I’d feel would be -38 – did I mention it was cold?).
The next couple of days were spent getting used to being in a new time zone and acclimatising to the foreign, below freezing temperatures. I arrived in Montana on December 28, between then and the 31st there had been little talk about New Years activity, so I was possibly a little too excited when on New Years Eve I was asked if I’d like to go out that night. Of course, I said yes and hurried down to Wal-Mart to buy 2014 paraphernalia. I was ecstatic by the vision of shelves upon shelves stacked with oversized glasses, hats, vests, toys and even fake beards that had ‘2014’ written all over it. I managed to bite the urge to purchase all of it and came away with 2014 glasses, a blower and a weird toy that made a squealing noise when you zipped it in the air.
Whilst the sun set (in the winter it’s dark by 4pm), we all did our bit to prepare a big New Years Eve feast for dinner. There was meat slow roasting in the BBQ, salads and desserts being made in the kitchen. As we sat down and ate dinner, I was told what to expect over the course of the night. I quickly learnt that I was going to be having a real country Montana New Years.
We arrived at the hall a few hours later with a couple of drinks in hand. Walking towards the door I could hear chatter and live music. When we walked inside the hall I saw a decorated room, filled with people of all ages in their jeans, boots and cowboy hats socialising, drinking and dancing to the band that played live on stage. I found a table and sought refuge there for a while – I’d never done swing dancing before. I happily watched as the room revolved around me. It came as no surprise that I was pulled up from my seat and taught basic swing dance moves. I was reluctant at first, but I couldn’t deny the fun I was having.
Not too long after I’d sat back down after my quick lesson in swing dance 101, a man in his mid 40’s who could only be described as a cowboy approached me. He had on a red and white checked shirt which was tucked into a pair of dark blue jeans, leather boots and of course a big hat. He asked for my hand in a dance. I turned around and looked at the group I was with, who all nodded and smiled. I spent a few songs swing dancing around the hall with this man. I couldn’t help but laugh – this was a pure only-in-Montana moment!
The night continued in this fashion. People were dancing and chatting; having a genuinely good time. When midnight came around, the room fell silent. The band counted us down. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. The hall erupted into a huge cheer, people were popping party confetti and there was the sound of fireworks from outside. I was happily wearing my 2014 brandished glasses, with a popper hanging out of my mouth and flying a squealing toy around my head, beyond excited for what the coming months had in store for me.