Folks in Santa Fe know the answer when asked what they’re doing on New Year’s Eve.

The place to be is the Santa Fe Plaza, where, together, townspeople and visitors count down the hours to the next year. It’s one of the newer Santa Fe traditions; the countdown to 2020 is but the fifth annual Free New Year’s Eve on the Santa Fe Plaza, an initiative of former Mayor Javier Gonzales.

Already, despite the reality that December nights in Santa Fe are cold, cold, cold, the New Year’s party on the Plaza has become a popular way to join friends and neighbors and ring out the old year in a festive and safe atmosphere.

It happens again tonight — and this time, the town is ringing in a new decade, as 2019 turns into 2020.

Dress warmly, but take comfort. Bonfires and heaters will be in place to keep people warm, with festivities beginning at 8 p.m. and ending just after midnight.

You can also keep moving while waiting for the new year. There will be plenty of music by local favorites — Sol Fire, Fun Adixx, Alex Maryol and Chango — on the Santa Fe Bandstand, along with hot chocolate and biscochitos, provided by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe.

As the music plays, partygoers can write their hopes for a better 2020 on a memorial banner. Then, at 11:45 p.m. city officials, led by Mayor Alan Webber, will welcome the crowd and begin the countdown to 2020.

Instead of a ball dropping at midnight, Santa Fe marks the transition from 2019 to 2020 with a Zia symbol rising. We are different, after all.

To end the night on a rousing note, fireworks will be launched from La Fonda on the Plaza — it’s those Kiwanis folks again, who get plenty of experience with pyrotechnics at the Fourth of July celebration and, of course, the annual Burning of Zozobra. This volunteer group keeps giving all year long, and Santa Fe is richer for it.

Of course, the night ends with everyone singing, “Auld Lang Syne” and the New Mexico favorite, “Las Mañanitas,” songs that bring people together.

With thousands of folks on the Plaza, it’s sure to be a festive evening — safe, family friendly, with no need to booze it up. (For anyone who is celebrating the New Year by drinking to excess, designate a nondrinking driver or use a ride share service; The Plaza, it goes without saying, is not the place for alcohol on New Year’s Eve. That’s one of its chief attractions. No drunks.)

This new tradition manages to be fun without liquor or fuss, meaning partygoers can start the new year the best way of all — not a hangover in sight.

This isn’t the only party in Santa Fe on New Year’s Eve, but it promises to be one of the biggest and best.

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