BEIRUT: Last year’s Gala at Nejmeh Square garnered attention from around the world and ushered in what was predicted to be a Lebanese economy finally on the upswing and signal what would be a newly revived Downtown.
Barriers had been removed, spirits were high - including Premier Saad Hariri busting some moves to the DJ - and the high tech light and stage design surrounding the Place D’Etoile garnered wide praise.
What a difference a year makes!
As 2019 comes to a close end and 2020 dawns, the Levantine economy is near collapse. Many persons have undergone salary cuts or been laid off, banks are tightly controlling depositor withdrawals, and the barriers and barbed wire are back up.
That said, it is New Year’s Eve, and if you celebrate quiet or loud, it’s always a night to mark in some fashion.
This year, many have opted for the cozier option, of spending the night at home with relatives, and close ones. Dima Wehbe, a journalist, told Annahar that she would be spending New Year’s “at home with the family.”
Others stated that this year won’t be any different than all the other years.
“I’m not going to let the bad incidents in the country get in between me and New Year’s Eve,” said Mahmoud Tarhini, business management student. Tarhini has booked a chalet in the mountains with a group of friends, and they’re planning on partying all night long.
The enchantment of marking New Year’s Eve dates back to 2000 B.C. where the earliest known celebrations were in Mesopotamia. In the updated version, some celebrations will be part political and part party.
Various members of the Thawra assured Annahar that the 31st of December does not mean that they will get out of the streets to go party.
“We are bringing the party to Martyr Square,” said Danny Hawi.
Activists have already set out a stage, invited singers, and bands to play all night long starting at 7 pm.
Hawi told Annahar that his whole family is going to be at Martyr Square to celebrate the “rebirth of a new Lebanon.”
Dania Assad, mother of two children said that she would be bringing homemade sandwiches and light snacks in a picnic bag with her to Martyr Square.
“The real celebration is on the streets, the real celebration is the formation of a nation that protects our basic human rights,” she said.
Many told Annahar that they have never felt this hopeful in Lebanon’s future as much as this year.
“17 October, the day the Lebanese revolution kicked off, is the day I was reborn,” Cynthia Hussam said.
“Everything that has been taking place those couple of months was enough to make me believe that when the clock ticks at 12 am on January 1st, 2020, it’s really going to be a new year that holds real action plans for a better Lebanon,” she added.
Baria Ahmar, an independent journalist said that she would be celebrating at Martyr Square because she wants to “welcome 2020 as a rebel.”
The poster art for the event showed a unified roof of umbrellas, vowing in Arabic that mere rain would not dampen revolutionary spirits.
Also, during a TV interview, Samir Saliba, the owner of Mike Sport, said he was contributing tents to the fete.
For others who lacked sufficient revolutionary zeal or shuddered at the thought of standing in the rain all night, said family parties were planned. While others opted for the traditional route of pubs with friends to mark the evening.
"I'm going out with friends to a pub in the Naccache area," said Elie Kassab.
Though a surprising number of persons said they had not decided as of yet what they would do as the clock ticked down to the magic minute when a new year began.
"Undecided," said Rita Makhoul, ArabNet, also the same for professor Raghda Alzein, along with a number of others who could not decide what to do.
And others, such as hospital staff Ziad Attieh, reported he would be working the night shift at Abou Jaoude Hospital.
One member of the Diaspora who returned to Sierra Leone during his AUB school break said he was attending a large family party where everyone had to bring their own dish.
He reported the weather was super in the tropical region.
Jehane and Charbel, a married couple, said they were going to binge on New Year's and holiday-themed movies such as "When Harry Met Sally," "Love Actually" and "It's a Wonderful Life," while pickup dining from Lebanese mesa, French Pate, and some champagne.
Another couple reported they also were going to staying home, but when asked if they were wearing their pajamas to chill out, they mirthfully replied, “not necessarily our pajamas.”
No matter what your preference - we leave you with the same perennial thought as last year: Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one....”
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