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Breaking a tradition

  • Mike Roman, left, with Penn State roommate Brandon Taylor.
    Mike Roman, left, with Penn State roommate Brandon Taylor.
Published January 23. 2010 09:00AM

For the past three years I've spent New Year's Eve in New York City. I wasn't there for the pan-ultimate New Year's experience of standing in Times Square as the ball drops, but rather to spend the holiday with my best friend, Mike Roman, his girlfriend and their families in Brooklyn and Queens.

But this year, my global location prevented me from making the two-hour pilgrimage to NYC. Needless to say, New Year's wasn't the same.

Mike and I were roommates at Penn State our freshman and sophomore years. I'd say we became friends out of necessity - we lived in supplemental housing with five other guys and the rest of our floor was predominantly girls - but how we became such good friends is somewhat of a mystery.

Mike, a Puerto Rican-Dominican who has lived in Brooklyn almost his whole life, always wore fitted hats and used terms like "Sup son" and "What's poppin yo" while I was from a small town in the Coal Region and apparently had a funny accent. Mike didn't know Penn State had a football team, let alone a great football team, while I'd been bleeding blue and white for most of my life. But we did share an unbreakable addiction for Jeopardy, watching the TV show almost every night and keeping score (last I checked, the score was 54-3 games in my favor).

Somewhere along the line, I was invited to Brooklyn for New Year's, probably because Mike was too scared to come to Tamaqua.

The holiday has become something I looked forward to every year. Mike and his then-girlfriend Gianelle's families welcomed me into their homes to celebrate the coming of the new year. The Hispanic food was always great, the music lively and it was kind of nice being the minority for a change. Everyone always had an interest in me and my small town in the woodlands of Pennsylvania.

This year I had to break that tradition, spending New Year's with a new group of foreign friends: the French.

Through my former roommate, Alexia, I made quite a few French friends. And let me tell you, they know how to celebrate the holidays. We picked a nice restaurant not far from where I live to wait for the midnight event.

Unlike Christmas, the Chinese seem to be much more open to the idea of celebrating on New Year's Eve. Many of the restaurants in my area of Beijing were crowded, and my group actually rang in the new year with a group of young Chinese in the dining room next to ours.

But as much as I enjoyed my Beijing New Year, part of me wished I were home with my friends, or that my friends from home were here in Beijing.

The food this year was good, but it wasn't the delicious plates of chicken and other Spanish-like assortments I was used to. The music was fun but it wasn't the same as Suavemente or the playlist at Gianelle's house.

New Year's in Beijing was full of fun and new friends, one of the best holiday's I've celebrated in a while. But it won't beat Brooklyn.

Brandon Taylor is a language consultant/foreign expert for the Beijing Review, an English language weekly newsmagazine in Beijing, China. He is a former correspondent for the TIMES NEWS. Read Brandon's blog at He can be reached at

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