The New Year is upon us which means it is time for New Year’s Eve celebrations and New Year resolutions. I have always been ambivalent about both. However, there are people who question my reasons to celebrate the New Year and some who state that the resolutions do more harm than good and/or see it as a waste of time.
We are standing at the crossroads of a new beginning once again and we need to work through the good, the bad and the ugly of the subject matters. We all get confronted in one way or another and got to decide on our New Year celebrations and the issue of New Year’s resolutions.
In this blog, we focus on New Year celebrations. It is important to find reasons to celebrate and a new year is for me a good enough reason! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement as the New Year’s Eve is a gala time everywhere in the world. Save perhaps our birthday, no other moment in our year gets this sort of attention. One can spot wonderful and exciting feasts happening during this time. There are hundreds of good-luck rituals woven among New Year celebrations. The Dutch, for whom the circle is a symbol of success, eat donuts. Greeks bake special Vassilopitta cake with a coin inside, bestowing good luck in the coming year on whoever finds it in his or her slice. Fireworks on New Year's Eve started in China millennia ago as a way to chase off evil spirits. The Japanese hold New Year’s Bonenkai, or "forget-the-year parties," to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a better new one. Disagreements and misunderstandings between people are supposed to be resolved, and grudges set aside. In a New Year’s ritual for many cultures, houses are scrubbed to sweep out the bad vibes and make room for better ones.
Why does the start of the New Year carry such special symbolism? Why is its celebration so common around the world, as it has been for at least as long as there have been calendars? And why are some people prepared to invest so much energy and resources in the celebration?
Behaviour this ubiquitous must surely be tied to something intrinsic in the human-animal, something profoundly meaningful and important. It may be that the symbolism we attach to this moment is rooted in one of the most powerful motivations of all: our motivation to survive. The celebration part is obvious. As our birthdays do, New Year’s Day provides us the chance to celebrate having made it through another 365 days, the unit of time by which we keep chronological score of our lives. Phew! Another year over and here we still are! The flip side of this is represented by the year-end obituary summaries of those who didn’t make it, reassuring those of us who did.
How are you going the celebrate New Year’s Eve? In the company of hundreds of strangers and you find yourself, on the stroke of midnight, wishing people you have never seen before or will never see again. Or are your celebrations a small intimate affair where maybe 6 or 10 people just sit around the fire, listen to music and talk about everything under the moon. The where and how is not important – the act of practicing celebration is – have fun, exercising your freedom, or just doing-what-the-hell-you-want. Whatever.
I want to challenge you on New Year’s Eve to celebrate one specific positive event or happening that occurred in the past year in your battle to survive. Then start picking one thing to enjoy the very next day and do it - even if it is as simple as sitting outside to read a book at lunch. Pick something else you will enjoy the following day and do that. Then keep going. Pretty soon, you have a handful of “celebrations” you can pick from every day. The goal is to create a habit of celebrating life, not to wait. The sooner you practice celebrating life; the sooner life will celebrate you.
In my next blog, we will talk about those New Year’s resolutions. Until then: Time to raise our glasses and toast our survival and life. Pass the donuts, the Vassilopitta, and the grapes, light the fireworks, and raise a glass to toast: "To survival and life!"