Wednesday, January 1, 2014

All Is Quiet On New Year's Day

The New Year is a very odd holiday. It is secular, almost arbitrary, and yet a set of traditions and rituals have come to cluster around it like every other celebration; but then you could almost define human beings as animals that make rituals, despite any beliefs or lack of them. It is a holiday that could be said to be only properly observed for one instant, at the stroke that changes December to January, and I know some people stay up to midnight to see it in and then promptly go to bed.

I spent New Year's Eve with family, eating pizza and chips and dip and drinking soda. We played party games (Catchphrase, Apples to Apples, Taboo) until midnight. This pretty much echoes New Year's when I was a child, except the adults ate black-eyed peas and pickled herring and drank coffee and played cards and dominoes, while the kids ran around and played and lived that parallel life just below the parents' radar, exactly like my nieces and nephews do now. Now as then at the stroke of twelve (marked in the old days by the radio, last night on cable TV) we all shouted "Happy New Year," couples kissed, and everybody shook hands. Someone in the neighborhood is sure to be letting off fireworks, no matter how dry the conditions are. The revels go on for an hour or so more, then everyone hits the road with cautions to watch out for drunks.

I am up now after about six hours of sleep (which is all I get these days anyway) and waiting for the majority of the family to wake up so I can make our special Holiday Breakfast: pancakes and bacon and fried eggs. Meanwhile I do some of my own little rituals. I've changed over my old calendar (a The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from last year) and put up a new one (a temporary placeholder from a local real estate agent until I get a Desolation of Smaug edition). I have a bit of a quirk about calendars: I feel if you don't change the month right away that it's...well, not exactly bad luck, but a kind of stalling, backward influence on your life. I've made out a payment on an old bill from my book club (the SFBC) that's been nagging me for the past six months and that I've always put off, so I can start the year fresh and clear.

New Year's Day, no matter when it has been celebrated, has since ancient days been seen as a time to make oaths and vows, to examine one's deeds and resolve to make amends. New Year's resolutions are in this tradition, though for most of us the only promises we make are to ourselves, and we are the only ones we usually disappoint. But then, if you don't aim at the moon, you won't even reach the rooftop. New Year seems like a rather arbitrary time to resolve anything, since obviously you could make resolutions and be better for them at any point in the calendar, but something you can do anytime is all too often you won't ever do (like pay my SFBC bill!) unless you have some specific impetus to do so.

So as I await my summons to cook, I mull over a few projects I hope to work on this year. One is organizing the perpetual disarray of my image files, and keeping them in order. Another is getting the Family Archives winnowed down and put into some kind of shape. Another is to finally write up the backlog of subjects I have lined up for this blog (I seem never to like for matter, just time and energy!). I wish everyone good luck with any resolutions they might make this year. I know I shall need it.

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