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Rituals for New Year's Day

Leigh Skizewski balances on a log as she crosses a stream along the Goodspeed Trail in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park near Kenwood. Skizewski, leader of the Sonoma County Wanderers hiking group, likes to hike on the first day of the new year.

CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / PD
Published: Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 2:15 p.m.

New Year's Day, we're told, is a time for hangovers and resolutions. Sometimes, one leads to another — a post-party pledge to “never do that again,” which may not last the year.

But for many, New Year's Day is a fresh beginning, with its own traditions.

“My New Year's Day tradition is to get outdoors,” said Lollie Mercer, owner of River's Edge Kayak and Canoe in Healdsburg. “This year, I want to take a stand-up paddle boat out on the Russian River. But I don't recommend that for anyone without whitewater rescue experience.”

Other people pursue a less rigorous regimen on Jan. 1.

One reader wrote of spending the day “just chillin' in front of the tube ...in our bathrobes and slippers, and there are large pitchers of Bloody Marys within close reach.” A bag of takeout burgers is also handy.

Some go to the movies on New Year's Day. The leading contender mentioned this year is “Lincoln,” although one reader put forward “Lion in Winter” as a perennial favorite on disc.

Others spoke of dressing in team colors to watch football on TV. One local poet invites her literary friends to brunch, and they all take turns reading their new verses.

As with any holiday, good food plays a big role in most celebrations.

“My New Year's Day tradition is to cook lots of New Orleans food — shrimp, gumbo, etc. — and start to celebrate Mardi Gras with a king cake,” said chef Maria Vieages, who moved from the Big Easy to Sonoma County after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Fresh air and exercise topped the list for most of those who shared with us their rituals for the first day of the new year.

“New Year's Day is probably the biggest hiking day of the year,” said Leigh Skizewski, leader of the Sonoma County Wanderers hiking group. “People want to start the year the way they want to live their year — the exercise and fresh air, and enjoying nature.”

This year, Skizewski's destination on Jan. 1 is Alamere Falls near Bolinas.

“It's one of the most beautiful hikes in the area,” she said. “It goes up along the coast. It's just gorgeous.”

Barbara Kelley of Santa Rosa doesn't emphasize exercise on New Year's Day, but there's plenty of fresh air at her part-time second home at Sea Ranch.

“We take beach chairs to the bluff top at Del Mar Point, with champagne and leftover New Year's Eve dinner — prime rib or turkey stuffed with wild rice and fruit. It's a short walk from our deck,” Kelley said.

“Last year, we watched seals and whales frolicking off the coast, and fishing boats,” she added. “It's a great way to start the year, counting our blessings with good friends, and the natural bounty of the Sonoma Coast.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.)

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