The New Year

One year has come to an end and soon enough another one begins. At one second past midnight on January 1, the day will change and this is usually an unremarkable transition. Somehow we’ve decided that this change, which will end one year and begin the next, it’s different, on this particular day we reflect, look back, take stock and assess how we did.

Each year is the same

Each year people around the globe celebrate New Year’s Eve with a great deal of fervor. And the celebrations around this particular time are amazing. But, for many people January 1st or 2nd nothing really changes and its back to the same old routine. The truth is that, you still have to put your shoes on in the morning, brush your teeth and head off to work.

Nessa Twix © Solkes

I guess, for most people, it represents hope. The year that is about to end might not have been so great.

There may have been an unusual amount of sickness or even a death in the family. This are just to mane a few things that could have taken place.

Anyway, the hope is that the New Year, will bring new energy to the family in order for them to move forward.

I guess people go all out celebrating New Year’s Eve because it is time for them to release their frustrations from all that has happened to them in the outgoing year.

Welcoming in the New Year for most people means creating a New Year’s resolution. Starting from scratch at the beginning of the year offers a fresh start and a clean slate, and most people take this opportunity to create a resolution.

Many people are indulging in retrospection and reevaluating some of their life choices. New Year’s resolutions are the perfect opportunity to start making the changes that they said they would make next week, next month, or perhaps when winter starts.

Many seize the chance to set a new goal as an attempt to get rid of a bad habit or begin a healthier lifestyle, such as quitting smoking or losing weight.

Sadly, by the middle of January many of this resolutions have been forgotten or people have just given up. The secret to reaching any goal you set is to turn it into a habit first. Always make sure the habit you choose is small enough to be achievable.

So, this time around I started asking myself: why does the start of the new year carry such special symbolism? And why is this celebration so common around the world, as it has been for at least as long as there have been calendars?

Maybe the symbolism we attach to this one moment is rooted in one of the most powerful motivations of all, “survival! Could this be it? Living one more year, surviving is the reason?

The celebration part is very clear to me. This given that New Year’s day gives us the chance to celebrate having made it through another 365 days. And, truthfully, this is an accomplishment.

Nessa Twix © Solkes

Good luck resolutions

But let’s get back to the resolutions, what is the big deal about them? Are they also about survival?

Nessa Twix © Solkes

New Year’s resolutions are examples of the a desire to have control over what lies ahead, because the future is unknowable. Not knowing what’s to come means we don’t know what we need to know to keep ourselves safe. So, in order to feel in control we do lists.

We resolve to change certain things, to eat better, to exercise, whatever it is we need. Committing to them, at least for a moment, gives us a feeling of more control over the uncertain days to come.

Interestingly, New Years resolutions also commonly include things like treating people better, making new friends, and paying off debts. It’s been so throughout history. The Babylonians would return borrowed objects. Jews seek, and offer, forgiveness.

Nessa Twix © Solkes

There are hundreds of good luck rituals woven among New Year celebrations, also practiced in the name of exercising a little control over fate.

An example are the Japanese, they 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.

The 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.

It’s fascinating, really, to see how common so much of this is: Fireworks. Good luck rituals. Resolutions to give us the pretense of control over the future. Everywhere, New Year’s is a moment to consider our weaknesses and how we might reduce the vulnerabilities they pose. I find it very interesting to realize all the special ways people have to celebrate this unique passage of one day into the next.

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