As holidays go, our western New Year is a pretty strange and maybe even pointless holiday. To start with, there isn’t really any purpose or point beyond marking the passage of an arbitrary passage of time. Other cultures in the past have had annual celebrations that actually make sense: the change of seasons; the annual flooding of the Nile river; the beginning of harvest or planting seasons; annual astronomical events or anniversaries of special events. But in the west, we have a holiday stuck in the middle of a temporal nowhere, remembered only because the calendar says remember it.
To make matters worse, it is just a week after one of the biggest cultural events we have. Whether we celebrate Christmas or some other December party, we arrive at New Year’s pretty much worn out and somewhat broke.
All that means that we don’t have much of a sense of how to celebrate the holiday. When the new year is marked by the beginning of planting, we celebrate by planting. When it marks the harvest, we celebrate by harvesting and feasting. If it marks the anniversary of some important event, we can celebrate and remember the event. But for us, well, we have this day when the most significant thing is that the old calendar has run out of days.
As a culture, we try to celebrate. We are encouraged to do a review of the past year and resolve to do better next year. We commit to making changes: lose the Christmas weight; start Christmas shopping earlier; be a nicer person; give up some vice or another. We have a party. But in the end, we likely don’t change much, probably because the whole thing is so artificial and contrived.
I am not calling for a change or anything like. This is more of a “Isn’t it strange” post. I suppose I could do some research and discover why we ended up with such a strange and unremarkable time for a recognition of the new year–but up to this point, I haven’t been interested enough to put the effort in to the process. As it stands now, I don’t expect to develop it anytime soon. Maybe, when I someday actually retire it will make a good project to stave off boredom.
But for now, I will simply point out how strange a choice for a new year recognition and wish you a Happy New Year. Now, I have to go and change the calendars.
May the peace of God be with you.