New Year’s Day is a day like no other in the year. It’s that one day of the year when we can all let loose, have a great time and, best of all, hope. Hope for more luck, more love, better times head – whatever. It’s that kind of day.
The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it so well when he said, “And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been”. What is it about this particular day that makes so many of us indeed believe that we can accomplish things in a coming year ‘that have never been’? It’s not like one is being reborn or some other miraculous ‘ta-da!’ event is to suddenly occur at the strike of midnight, yet that’s exactly how it feels. There is a sense of renewal, of a life somehow scrubbed clean. How terrific is that?
And then we screw it up by giving ourselves momentous lists of Things-That-I-Must-Accomplish-This-Year-Once-And-For-All-Bloody-Hell. Drum roll! Yes, it’s those dreaded New Year’s resolutions, folks. Resolutions are like those dreadfully uncouth and embarrassing distant cousins who come to Christmas or some other such family event every year. You hate them with a passion, but you feel obliged to invite and endure them. That’s resolutions for you. Most of us hate making them, yet we feel we must – like uncouth distant cousins from hell. It’s emotional Tourette’s Syndrome!
New Year’s resolutions are such a part of our culture that there are even Nielsen ratings for them. According to a Nielsen survey at the end of 2015, staying fit and healthy came in tops with 37% of respondents citing that as one of their resolutions for 2016. Losing weight came in at an equally hefty 32%, which means that the body beautiful was a big wish (read: hellish resolution) for a large chunk of people. It says it all, really. The more esoteric promise to enjoy life more to the full was the wish of 28%, whilst spending less and saving more was one of the resolutions for a quarter of people. Interestingly, 16% of people vowed to have no resolutions in the coming year. Or is that not a resolution in itself?
Of course, the irony of New Year’s is that the day itself (January 1st) is usually a haze of hangovers and that faint, bittersweet feeling. And already regretting those blasted resolutions one made the night before, of course. Because it’s the night before that is the real deal. New Year’s Eve is when the promise for the coming year is most sparkly and shiny. It’s also when the yearning to make the night count and party hearty is pretty strong. I’ve had my share of fab parties in the streets or in nightclubs or grand hotels. Yet, sometimes a simple get together with family or friends can be just as enjoyable. One of my best New Year’s parties ever was a house party in Calgary, Canada, where I was the only guy amongst thirteen lesbians. Trust me, it was a riot!
It takes another great poet to say it best about New Year’s, this time Alfred Lord Tennyson: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’” I love his words because I believe them to be the truest regarding a new year. Above all else, we yearn to be happy. Happiness comes in many guises and means different things for different people. But that is what New Year’s is ultimately about – our unending need to be happy. In short, the need that makes us human.
New Year’s is a wonderful time. It’s a time to look forward and put the past behind you, even if just for a day. Reality does creep back on us all too quickly. Hopefully this year it’ll be different for you and the hope will last well beyond just that one day. New Year’s gives each and every one of us a chance to restart. Or change. Or begin again. Or reboot. Or continue on your merry way. You choose. Happy New Year from Hanky.