New Year’s Eve

I don’t mean to make a habit out of posts that bash beloved holidays (watch out, Arbor Day!), but I feel the need to address tonight’s celebration of the New Year. It’s not that I hate New Year’s like I hate Christmas—I don’t. I just think New Year’s Eve is a poorly conceived holiday.

New Year’s Eve is a celebration built around a technicality. The Gregorian calendar lasts twelve months, but “beginning” in January is totally arbitrary. A continuous revolution, such as the Earth’s around the Sun, has no beginning and no end. In fact, because the length of the aforementioned revolution is technically slightly longer than 365 days (hence the need for Leap years), New Year’s Eve isn’t even consistent on which point signifies a “new” year. (Not to mention the fact that the current calendar has been altered and revised so many times throughout history that historical years have not always even been the same length, let alone had the same starting point.)

In other words, there is no inherent difference between midnight on December 31 and midnight on December 30. Or, for that matter, on March 17, or September 7. Maybe if New Year’s Eve coincided with a solstice or an equinox, then I could see the logic behind it, but not as it is now.

Why does this matter? Well, the fact that December 31 is not really different from any other night means that it is, as Barney called it on How I Met Your Mother, the “single biggest letdown of a night, every year.” We invest New Year’s Eve with all this significance, with resolutions and parties and midnight kisses and end of the year (or decade) retrospectives. And yet, when midnight comes, we are inevitably faced with the fact that New Year’s Eve is not all that different from the other 364 midnights of the year.

Does this mean that New Year’s Eve is doomed, or that it is the evil force that Christmas is? No. New Year’s Eve is designed to let us down, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have small successes. Most resolutions will be broken and discarded within weeks, but for those that keep them, they can be an integral step towards self-improvement. Most years’ attempts to create the “perfect New Year’s” will fail, but the quixotic quest for a perfect evening is a noble and potentially fruitful one. Even the added social pressure to do something “cool” or “different” on New Year’s, which often leads to anxiety, can motivate someone to actually do something cool and different.

So when you’re out tonight, be aware that New Year’s Eve probably won’t be different than any other night, and 2010 won’t be that much different than 2009. But on the off chance that it is, then it’s going to be legen-DARY!

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by doc on December 31, 2009 at 7:07 PM

    Onto the Top Tens and off with the Forget-Me-Aughts. Woohooo!!! (with party hat on head and noisemaker in mouth) Happy New Year to all!

    Reply

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