New Year’s is the strangest of all the strange days we celebrate. Our system of marking days, weeks, months, years seems so completely random and arbitrary to me. What was that Pope Gregory the 13th thinking anyway?
Other calendars, like the Islamic calendar follow the phases of the moon. The Persian calendar follows the solar cycle. Traditional Chinese and Hindu calendars follow a luni-solar cycle. Those all kind of makes sense.
I don’t know what the Gregorian calendar follows. Nothing, I think. It would make sense to me to have the year end maybe at the end of March because then it’s spring and everything starts anew. Instead our year just starts in the middle of winter – a week after the most hectic insanity of the year.
And if Christmas wasn’t enough of a stressor, New Year’s Eve is the ultimate high pressure event. First of all there are a lot of superstitions around how you ring in the New Year. Superstitions that imply that what you do as the year flips over, sets the scene for the entire next year:
- Kissing at midnight — kiss your loved ones at midnight to ward off relationship disaster in the coming year.
- Full cupboards – your home must be well-stocked with food to ensure a year of plenty.
- No debts – pay all bills and debts before midnight or you’ll face financial ruin in the new year.
- First Footing – the first person to cross your threshold in the new year should, ideally be a dark-haired handsome male. Do not, whatever you do, let a female cross your doorway first or disaster will follow all year. There are a whole list of other First Footing dos and don’t which you can find here.
- Nothing leaves the house – do not allow anything to leave your home until something new is brought in (this includes taking out the garbage)
- No washing – don’t do laundry, don’t do the dishes or clean anything on New Year’s or you’ll wash away all your luck. (Ya, this one is going to be tough)
- Letting the old year out – fling open all your doors and windows at midnight to let the old year escape and the new year enter.
- Wear New Clothes – on New Year’s to ensure lots of good luck – make them red for extra luck.
- Dance outside – dancing outside at midnight around a tree will bring love and prosperity throughout the upcoming year.
- Make noise – Make lots and lots of noise at midnight to scare off all the evil spirits of the past year.
Aside from all these superstitions, there is also the expectation that we MUST do something special on New Year’s Eve or we’re a lame-oh. And, that something special MUST be done with a date. Not to have a date on NYE is just sadder than anything. (But not nearly as sad as having a date you don’t really like all that much and being stuck with him for the whole long, long, long night. And, damn if NYE isn’t the longest friggin’ night because you can’t just yawn and go home after dinner — NO, you have to stay until at least 12:01.)
One of my most memorable NYE’s was the year I was editor of my university’s student newspaper. There was a conference of all Canadian university student newspaper editors during the week between Christmas and New Year’s up in North Bay. The snow was over the top of our thighs and the temperatures hovered around minus 50. Around 7:00 pm on NYE, as we were all in our hotel rooms getting ready for dinner, a fire broke out in the hotel.
I helped evacuate people by walking the halls and knocking on doors. Everyone was sent to the golf club house at the extreme rear of the hotel’s property. By the time I’d worked my way through a few hallways, it was time to leave the hotel and I wasn’t allowed back to my room. I had no shoes or coat, so I grabbed a few table cloths from the dining room table and wrapped up in those. I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk all the way to the golf club house in table cloths, so the fire fighters parked me in the front seat of one of the fire engines in the parking lot.
Meanwhile, all my peers back at the golf club house thought I’d perished in the fire and held a little memorial service for me. Being journalist types they really got into the tragic sensationalism of my untimely loss and kept themselves busy composing fantastic stories for their newspapers in their heads. So, of course they were mega pissed off when the firefighters later brought me to the golf club house completely uncharred — albeit shoeless.
Eventually, I was mostly forgiven for not getting burnt to a crisp and we all celebrated a succession of New Years as it turned midnight in the various time zones represented by the various delegates from across the country.
In the wee hours of the new year we were bussed to the only other hotel in town and ended up sleeping 4 and 5 to a room forcing us to share beds with people we’d only just met that week. (Hi Kevin. Rrrworrrrr!!!)
What was your most memorable New Year’s Eve? Are you planning anything spectacular this year?