As nice as Christmas is, as enjoyable as Thanksgiving can be, my very favourite holiday is New Year’s.
My affinity for it is partly genetic. My Scottish ancestors would, of course, go to church on Christmas but they wouldn’t exchange presents until Hogmanay– the Gaelic word for New Year’s Eve – and then they'd party until the early morning. New Year's Eve was the biggest celebration of the year.
In fact, my grandparents’ generation was the first one in my family to open presents on Christmas morning. I was raised with the annual tradition of first footing, a ceremony I look forward to every year.
But what I like most about NYE is that unlike other holidays it looks ahead to the future. Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Canada Day, whatever, they’re all anniversaries or commemorate past events. They all invite retrospection and contemplation of the past. That’s good and necessary, but it doesn’t always encourage progress.
New Year’s, on the other hand, is filled with optimism. Sure, you can reflect on the past year, but the emphasis is on planning and hoping for the best in the next 365 days. There’s a blank slate ahead of you and December 31st is your day to figure out what you’re going to create. On January 1st, you put that plan in to motion.
As you'd expect, I’m pretty crazy about resolutions. I probably average a dozen every year, covering every aspect of my life. I always make sure I’ve got at least one resolution for my health, personal relationships and my career. I like to be thorough.
Kathryn Schulz’s “Even absurd new year's resolutions do you good” in today’s Guardian reaffirmed my love of the resolution.
“Our resolutions are not failed acts of the will, but successful acts of the imagination. You will not enrol in a doctoral programme and spend more time with your kids and lose 20 pounds in 2011 just by resolving to do so. But you will be far more doomed to fail - and far more emotionally impoverished - if you never even dream up those plans in the first place.
“That’s why our resolutions, even at their most delusional, strike me as the best possible way to start a new year. They bring us back in contact with all the phantom versions of ourselves, those reverse ghosts that haunt our future, waiting to be embodied. Just as other forms of wrongness as optimism propel us out of bed the morning after a wasted day, our annual resolutions propel us into a new year, hopeful all over again that we will be better people in the days to come.”
It’s that recommitment to one’s self that I find so appealing. It’s something that anyone can do. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or an atheist. Your age, race, gender or sexual preference are inconsequential.
Refocusing and reconsidering one’s life are all-inclusive pursuits and healthy ones to boot. Unlike other holidays, New Year’s Eve transcends all the cultural divisions we place on ourselves. It’s more accessible than any other day of the year and an opportunity to create some positivity in our lives.
New Year’s is a universal celebration.
I love that feeling of renewal and rejuvenation and I hope that after reading this post you take a few minutes today or tomorrow to evaluate and plan your new year.
All the best to you and yours and have a happy and productive 2011.