Weekly Column: What’s the point of a New Year anyway?

Six days into the New Year and I don’t feel any different. 

Aren’t you supposed to?  Aren’t you supposed to wake up on January 1st filled with high expectations and grand hopes for the New Year?  Isn’t that what all of the partying is about?  Isn’t that what all of the celebrating and horn blowing is for?    

Well, that’s not what happened at my house.  I woke up feeling the same way I do every morning at 6 AM with a 3-year-old asking for a waffle and a dog trying his best not to pee on the carpet.  The only difference on New Year’s Day was that I also had a humongous headache from the glass of cheap champagne that I had at 10 o’clock the night before because really, who stays up until midnight anymore?

But that’s not what’s supposed to happen on January 1st.  The New Year is supposed to be about waking up to the thrill of a new day, waking up refreshed, renewed, and revived, believing that this year will be better than the last, the old year and it’s problems far behind us. 

Well, apparently 2008 didn’t get the memo because it packed up—baggage and all—and followed me right into 2009.

I think the whole New Year’s thing is a bunch of false advertising.  We sell ourselves on the hope that the New Year will be everything that that the Old Year wasn’t.  We promise ourselves that the New Year will be better, that we will be better. 

In reality, all the New Year’s holiday is really all about is buying a new calendar and having an excuse to wear a goofy looking paper hat.

Every holiday is about selling us something.  This one just happens to be about selling us hope for the future.  That’s really not such a bad thing until we start using the dreaded “R” word: resolution.  It amazes me how that one word really ruins the whole thing. 

Deep down, we all hate them but that doesn’t keep us from making them.  We resolve to eat less, exercise more, live healthier, listen better and worry less, and for a while we actually do it.  We start out strong by joining the gym, throwing out the cookies, and doing all of the things that we feel the New Year expects.  But within weeks, days really, those old habits—the laziness, the chocolate cravings, our couch-potato-television-watching-selves reappear—and we suddenly realize that just because the calendar changed didn’t mean that we suddenly did. 

Unlike Cinderella, when the clock struck midnight everything in our world didn’t suddenly change.

Those extra pounds?  Still there.  Credit card bills?  Still there.  Your concern for the future?  Still there.   All that’s new is a silly resolution to try and fix it all.  Who wants to start the New Year with a massive “To-Do” list?  Not me.  I’d rather do what I did in 2008 and just pretend that it doesn’t exist.     

“Why is there a New Year?” my 6-year-old asked.  It was a good question.  I knew that it had something to do with the Earth’s rotation around the sun or something like that. 

Instead, all I said was, “There just is.”

“But why?  Why do we need a New Year every year?  Why can’t we just keep the old one?”

Leave it to a small child to impart the wisest of wisdom.  Obviously my son was listening when I was teaching him the environmentally-friendly lessons of “make use of what you have” and “buy less stuff.”  What was wrong with the year we had?  Why not reduce, reuse, and recycle the old one instead of having to mess with a new one?

It made total sense to me, but instead I said, “We always need a New Year.”  He starred at me in silence, waiting for more, so I continued.

“A New Year brings new birthdays and lots of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.  There will be new eggs to hunt on Easter, and more people to pinch on St. Patrick’s Day.  There will be fun vacations to take during summer break and new friends to make at school in the fall.  And don’t forget, without a New Year there wouldn’t be a next Christmas and…”

He cut me off before I could finish.  “Okay, Mom.  I’m glad there’s a New Year then.”

And suddenly, so was I.


©2009, Stephenie B. Freeman 

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