People celebrate the departure of the old year and arrival of the new one in a variety of ways. Some people party in the change of the calendar and wake up with a hangover a day or two into the new year.

Others still prefer a "rockin'" New Year's Eve, even though Dick Clark is no longer with us to introduce singers and musical groups I have never heard of.

Then there are others who snore in the new year. I would be among those others. I again greeted the arrival of Jan. 1 with mouth open and eyelids closed, but as usual I didn't do that deliberately.

Also, I didn't do it to be contrary as some people do. These are night owls who usually like to stay up until all that is on TV are 240 channels showing infomercials about three topics: dieting, exercising or preparing foods.

Just as there are those steady drinkers who refuse to go out on New Year's Eve because of all the amateur imbibers who emerge on that night, these people who love the early morning go to bed early just to spite the rookies who stay up.

There are also those who have to record the 10 o'clock news throughout the year, so they remain true to their early-to-bed principles and treat Dec. 31 as just an ordinary night and not the eve of the new year.

Then there are those like me who have every intention of staying up to midnight. We don't do this because we love to throw confetti, use noisemakers and wear funny hats. We do this because greeting the new year is just something that should be done.

The irony is that when my siblings and I were kids, we always looked forward to staying up late. We looked forward to New Year's Eve because we got to forget about our usual 9 o'clock bedtime.

This was extra enjoyable because we did not have to whine and wheedle to get our parents to extend our 9 p.m. bedtime deadline "until the next commercial." (That never worked and we would be marched up to bed at 9 anyway.)

It was like a journey to an exotic place to be able to stay up so late. This was a rare pleasure, even if we did have to undergo some hardships in order to experience it.

Back then, New Year's Eve was not official unless my family watched a show featuring Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, who played in the new year with "Auld Lang Syne."

We watched "The Lawrence Welk Show" each week on the family's only TV, so Guy had a tough act to follow. It might have helped if he had had a bubble machine like Lawrence Welk did for his "champagne music."

Another family New Year's tradition was to eat sardines to usher in Jan. 1. The only good part about that was that we got the sardine taste out of our mouths with a rare treat of shrimp.

My brothers, sister and I also got to hold new $10 bills to welcome in the New Year. Unfortunately, we had to return them to our folks after the celebration. (I would have even been willing to eat more sardines if I got to keep the ten-spot.)

As a young adult, alcohol figured in the New Year's Eve celebration. A few of my friends celebrated the imminent arrival of Jan. 1 with such enthusiasm that they did not even see 9 o'clock, my childhood bedtime.

While alcohol did seem to add something to the celebration, it carried with it a heavy price.

My old friend Professor Van Von Venn has a theory about why pork and sauerkraut comprise the traditional meal on New Year's Day.

"It's not that people are all that crazy about starting their year with fermented cabbage," said Von Venn. "Sauerkraut was invented by a group of women who wanted to punish their husbands for drinking too much on New Year's Eve.

"They figured the smell of cooking cabbage would be the aroma that hung-over guys would be least likely to appreciate."

However, the tradition of people staying up to midnight means something else to me. I feel as though fate is playing a practical joke on me three months before April 1 and April Fools' Day.

I spent my early life wishing I could stay up as late as I wanted, and my college and young adult years doing just that. Now, there are few gifts I would appreciate more than getting to bed early.

However, work, household and other responsibilities usually conspire to keep Jo Ann and me from getting to sleep much before 11 or even midnight, having to get up 6 or 6 ½ hours later.

New Year's Eve is one of the few nights when we would like to stay up to midnight, since we have the holiday to sleep in.

This year, we had every intention of watching a double-feature of Elvis Presley DVDs that were Christmas presents. We both made it through the first film, but didn't get more than 15 minutes into the second one before we both fell asleep sitting up on a sofa.

We woke up about three hours into the year and had to trudge up two flights of steps after Elvis had left the building.

On the plus side, though, Jo Ann did not make me eat any sardines.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)