The Big Night. Some of us adore New Year's Eve as a glittering passage from one year to the next; some are vexed by the hats and the hoopla. The annual fete is subject to interpretation.
Democrats, for example, are more likely than Republicans to spend the evening celebrating with a pet, for example. But wait, there's more.
In a matter of hours, the fabled, 5-ton ball of light will edge down over Times Square at midnight.
Houston a star.
Then there is the kiss.
The midnight kiss is an indisputable rite as the horns blow: More than two-thirds of Americans expect to share a New Year's kiss with somebody -- be it a little peck, a big buss or a Manhattan, the organizers behind the mother of all New Year's "drops."
Even the married folks had high expectations in the survey: Only 10 percent of them did not expect to kiss anyone at the stroke of 12.
But there are differences in the kiss. Duration matters. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents expected their midnight kiss to last at least a few seconds, 11 percent expected they'd be in lip lock mode a "minute or two," while a daring 6 percent expected their kiss to last "until the next morning."
There's an age divide here. That number was 20 percent among the 18-to-24-year-old set, but only 2 percent among people older than 55.
A fur factor also comes into play.
"People love seeing in the New Year with their pet," said Tom Tompkins, president of the Times Square group. "I guess it's that pure joy and unconditional optimism that animals have that people love to be around."
Indeed. The survey revealed that "more people will kiss their pet at midnight than will kiss a friend" and that women were more than four times as likely to spend New Year's Eve with a pet than men.
For what it's worth, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to celebrate the festivities with a pet, the poll says.
Festivities might be guarded, though. Three-fourths of the respondents said that 2008 was "worse for the world" than 2007, with 43 percent saying that things should at last improve in the next 12 months.
"Given all the economic, social and political changes going on, Americans seem to be a bit unsure of what's ahead. They seem to be aware that there is no quick fix," Mr. Tompkins said. "Nevertheless, there's a feeling of hope - a feeling that if we can get past these challenging times, better things are ahead for us."
The survey of 2,000 adults was conducted Dec. 12 to 14 and has a margin of error of two percentage points.
Other researchers have plumbed the mysteries of New Year's Eve. A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults released Tuesday found that 57 percent expect to kiss someone at midnight, while more than three-fourths said that yes, they would still be awake when the clock strikes 12.