I have rarely spent New Years Eve at a party or out in the cold watching fireworks over a big city. One year we hosted a 12-course meal for our family, stretching across midnight with a course of sparkling drink as the clock struck 12. It was fun, but kind of hard work. I would definitely do it again, but differently (i.e. with more help!).
Most years we just relax and watch movies or play new board games (my parents gave us Carcassonne for Christmas this year, anyone ever played it? We LOVE the strategy board games in this house.), and this year we’ll do the same.
One thing I do enjoy making time for are the different recaps of the year across social and mainstream media. Unlike many who reject the notion of obligatory celebrations on the New Year I allow myself to join in with the shared cultural experience. It’s the end of a cycle. Yes, it’s a manmade cycle and a more natural New Year might be in April when spring first arrives, but it still works because so much of our world is set around this cycle. Rituals and ceremony are important to humans; they help shape our stories like the covers of a book. We use phrases like ‘the end of a chapter’ or ‘that’s another story’. (This is why I know writing stories is a noble profession: we need them.) And so I join in by reading these recaps of the past year. A year of stories.
Reading the lists of Notable Obituaries is probably my favourite of these round-ups. It’s not morbid curiosity; rather it’s a celebration of those notable lives. These obituaries are full of fascinating stories–what incredible lives these people have led! Many of the stories I didn’t know about these people because all I read about to this point had been their current events. These stories don’t rise them higher in my mind, rather, they make them more human, more like me, and the stories sit them nicely in that web of human life connecting us all. And of course this exercise allows my thoughts to drift across the family members, companions, friends I know who have died in the past year and I think about their whole lives in the same manner, as a long and interesting story.
But it’s not just a time of saying goodbye to lives in the past year. It’s a forward-looking time for me as well.
Besides the Notable Obituaries, I also do this little habit every year, where I think of all the surprising things–good and bad, that have happened to me in the past year, things I never could have predicted at the start of it, on the first of January. It’s a useful exercise to remind me that the coming year will bring more surprises: good and bad surprises, and to look forward to the good (and do what I can to encourage a lot more of the good) and to brace myself for the bad–to boldly go into the new year ready for as much as I can be ready for. This little habit, this exercise in preparation prevents me from being a passive person who allows things to just happen. Instead, I am an active player in my life; I am someone who makes things happen.
And I wonder what I’ll make happen in 2014!
(I have a few plans, and I’m excited for them!)
What about you? What rituals or promises or resolutions have you made? Or are you happier just letting the event slip past as any other month end, month beginning?
Whatever your plans, I wish you all a very happy, successful and healthy 2014!