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"Rocking" In The New Year


Happy New Year and welcome to 2021! As you can see, I was with a couple of real "party animals" at midnight last night. They certainly could have cared less about this big event. I, at least, did think it important enough to turn on the TV and watch the ball drop to witness the official start of a new year. Oddly enough, New Year's Day as we know it is fairly new. January 1 only became a bank holiday forty seven years ago and did not become an official national holiday until 1973. And yet it seems as though it has always been one, doesn't it? Not only that, but January 1 hasn't always been the first day of the year, either. We can thank Julius Caesar for that. The first time in history that the first day of January was celebrated as the first day of the year was in 45 B.C. when the new Julian calendar went into effect. It wasn't until 1582 when the calendar was updated again and finally as we know it at the behest of Pope Gregory that people actually started to celebrate the precise arrival of a new year on this date. But why celebrate at all the transition from one day to the next, one year to the next? David Ropeik in an article in Psychology Today entitled "Why We Really Celebrate New Year's Day" suggests that the symbolism people attach to this one day of the year may be rooted in the most powerful motivation of all, the motivation to survive. He points out that there are hundreds of good luck rituals as well as the desire to make and follow through on resolutions to treat each other and ourselves better that are part of new year traditions in all cultures. Millennia ago the Chinese started shooting off fireworks on New Year's Eve in the hopes of frightening off evil spirits. The Greeks bake a special Vassilopitta cake with a coin inside to bestow good luck in the coming year on whoever finds it in his or her slice. But I especially like the Japanese idea for celebrating this day with a 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. Ropeik points out that New Year's gives all of us the opportunity to consider our weaknesses and how we might reduce the vulnerabilities that they hold. So with the making of resolutions, for example, we hope to somehow find a way to control our lives and our future, to counteract as much as possible the unknown. He goes on to say, "As common as these shared behaviors are across both history and culture, it’s fascinating to realize that the special ways that people note this unique passage of one day into the next are probably all manifestations of the human animal’s fundamental imperative for survival." Perhaps this year this idea about why we make resolutions, participate in long-held good-luck and good-fortune traditions and even celebrate in whatever way we safely can has particular merit. I'm not partying, but I will be having a traditional New Year's Day stew of collards and sausage.

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