Keeping a New Year’s Day tradition alive

When we moved into our house twenty years ago, we moved into a tight-knit neighborhood. Friday nights meant poker games. Halloween meant Liqu-‘or-Treat with bespoke cocktails at the end of each driveway for the adults. Over the years, what began as impromptu gatherings became traditions.

One of those traditions originated in St. Louis long before any of us opened the doors into our homes for the first time. For it was in St. Louis, that Bill and Janie Swenson first invited their neighbors to an open house brunch every January 1st to kick off the new year. We’d all straggle in throughout the day, timing often dictated by the intensity of the previous night’s festivities.

Inside, Bill worked the pan and spatula like a world class line cook making fried rice omelettes. Sesame oil and “Happy New Year” filled the air. A Bloody Caesar appeared in your hand. “Who’s next?” Bill shouts over the hum. And repeat…70 times.

Bill and Janie moved south, extending the tradition to their new neighborhood, leaving a New Year’s Day void in ours. But traditions are traditions for a reason. They are meant to be carried on, torches passed. Such was New Year’s Day 2023 when Jenn and I raised our hands (or forgot to duck) when that void needed to be filled. We tiptoed in with a deliberately small gathering. Only a fool would cannonball into the deep end of trying to tackle a 70 omelet production line on their first go.

We hit 18 omelettes. I’m confident we’ll work up to a Swenson’esque 70 over the next two decades.

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