The New Year is a cheerful holiday. It’s more trifling, perhaps, than the sacred holidays and even weighty days of remembrance like Memorial Day and July Fourth. But if more trifling, it’s also lighter, and that also has its charm. The turn of the year is a hopeful time, turning people to the future, to dreams and wishes and resolutions. The New Year is so cheerful it is, in fact, almost sad. We are a little too eager to sweep up the old year and discard it.
Some more eager than others, of course. Still, no one’s happiness is so pure as to entirely exclude relief. Welcome the New Year, and good riddance to the old. Everyone likes New Year’s because the New Year is about change, and we could all use some of that.
The celebration of New Year’s is more free-form than that of other major holidays – and, let us add, more voluntary (another reason for its popularity!). Our society has only a few broadly established traditions. There is, of course, the ball drop in Times Square, which has a rich history and symbolism and, anyway, it’s sort of fun to watch heavy, glittering objects fall. We have our one certified New Year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne”. Admittedly, no one understands more than two lines of the song, and sometimes one suspects that there are only two lines. Nevertheless, it’s nostalgic.
Even more universal: New Year’s resolutions. I am firmly opposed to breaking New Year’s resolutions, which is why I never make them. And I already think of things I ought to do and then don’t do them, so it doesn’t really seem necessary as a holiday tradition. Many people do make New Year’s resolutions, though. Sometimes the same ones, year after year, because the idea is good even if the flesh is weak. New Year’s resolutions come from that sense of change, that same stirring of hope, that makes the holiday so attractive. In this manifestation, though, it is change from ourselves and even change of ourselves. Here is another truth we edge up to on New Year’s: We could all be better, all try harder.
We probably won’t, of course. That’s another truth we come up against, usually shortly after the New Year. But every holiday consists at least half in remembering, in certain realities brought to celebration and thus, perforce, to mind. And for all we know – for, though the world is old, it is still a place of miracle and wonder – we may even keep those New Year’s resolutions.
So Happy New Year. I hope that 2019 was good to you, and 2020 will be even better. I hope that you will have the change you want, and the change that you need, and that your heart will be refreshed as the new year brings us that much closer to the day when everything will be new.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
– Minnie Louise Haskins, “God Knows”