Here’s why we celebrate the arrival of each New Year twice

Every New Year’s Eve where I now live, folks gather in front of the Tides Institute – also known for the occasion as Tides Square – for the drop of a festive maple leaf emblem at 11 pm and then convene again for a giant sardine sculpture at midnight.

First, the maple leaf.

Forget crowded Manhattan. This is the kind of homegrown affair where you can actually run into people you know, as well as others you’ll be hoping to see more of.

With New Brunswick just a mile or two across the channel and very much a part of our community, Eastport can’t help but mark the one-hour time difference between the two shores. Your cell phone certainly reminds you, shifting from one to the other. And so, at midnight Atlantic Time, we drop the lighted red maple leaf while a small brass band plays “Oh, Canada,” with many of the observers singing along. And then there’s the first burst of pyrotechnics overhead. Yay! Wow! Grins!

Up close, at ground level.

Time for a break, perhaps for hot chocolate down the street or a stop at several diners open uncommonly late, or even a dash home.

An hour later, reflecting the fact that Eastport was once the sardine capital of the world, everyone’s back, awaiting a giant sardine sculpture to descend at midnight Eastern Time from the former bank building that now houses a museum. This round, we all cheer to “Old Lang Syne” and then a festive outburst of fireworks.

Star of the show.

Here’s what we’re looking forward tonight!

Why there’s no Eastport, Massachusetts

From 1653 until 1820, Maine was governed by Massachusetts.

The westernmost port down there is Westport, beside Buzzard Bay. A lovely place, by the way.

And the easternmost port was Eastport, in waters subsidiary to the Bay of Fundy. As you’ve been seeing here.

But then, come 1820, the two extremes separated when Maine finally became independent as a state.

Now I guess that easternmost point down under distinction falls on Chatham, out on Cape Cod. And Maine has no Westport.

One year, while still living in New Hampshire, I was in Eastport one weekend, and Westport, the next. I saw it as some kind of weird coincidence, not knowing there really had been a rational connection.

Have you ever thought about the name of the place where you’re dwelling?

Scalloping in the dead of winter

There’s not a lot of meat in one of these, but what there is will be treasured by many seafood lovers.

This time of year, I hear the puttering motors in the chill air before the sun’s even up as the fishing boats head out to drag the depths for scallops. No matter how low the thermometer reading or how bad the weather, the vessels venture by, or attempt to, intent on catching their daily limit of ten or 15 gallons a day in a season that runs no more than 50 or 70 days but may close earlier, depending on the sustainable harvest in each of the regulated zones.

Rigged with a boom for the heavy chain net that drags the seafloor for scallops, this vessel returns to port with its harvest.

A day not out on the water of the bays around Eastport is a day’s income that’s lost for the season. The economics of fishing are precarious enough.

These intrepid fishermen shuck their catch onboard, tossing the shells overboard, which provides grounding for the breeding of more, and then return to port with their precious harvest, often well before noon.

A shell flies toward the water as these fishermen quickly shuck the precious bivalves onboard.

The licenses are coveted and even the size of crews is limited by state law.

Come summer, many of the boats, with their rigging reconfigured, and their crews will have turned their attention to lobster.

Other important harvests here are urchins and clams.

What workers impress you the most when they’re out in bad weather?

 

A half gallon of fresh scallops

Or about 4½ pounds, purchased from a dragger docked at the Breakwater pier, where the crew of three was busy shucking the morsels from their shells. After dining on these two days straight last Christmas, we agreed we have a new holiday tradition. Unlike ones you would purchase at a market, these have no water added, and that means you can get a lovely sear when sauteing them in a bit of olive oil and butter. Do I need to add they taste heavenly?

Excellently crafted just a few blocks away

Holiday wreath-making provides much-needed seasonal employment in Sunrise County. It starts with the signs saying “fir tippers” needed – no, it’s not about gratuity payments but rather clipping a specified length of greens from fir trees. There’s an art to it, I’m told, and a drought can add complications.

Then there’s the manufacture and shipping of the wreaths themselves across the country in time for Christmas.

On our back door.

Ours wasn’t made by one of the wreath factories in the county but rather a skilled neighbor. The finished wreaths are sold in the front yard on an honor payment, 12 dollars apiece.

If it were a painting, it would be a study in gray and green.

Happy Holidays!