Not that it really matters.. January 1 is just another day. Many people don’t even have the luxury of the day off. Still, it’s hard to ignore the day, perhaps because it holds the promise of better things to come.
There’s a little in-built optimism into the worst grouches that wishes for fresh beginnings in the New Year. Or at least, wishes for a bad spell to end. Maybe there isn’t even a bad spell, but when there is aspiration for more, or better, then everything you already have seems inadequate.
Contentment is not considered a virtue these days. So if you are content with your lot you are a boring loser. Everyone else wishes for more money, more love, a better job, and a better life. And the New Year just makes that seem possible.
That’s perhaps why people celebrating the coming of the New Year, symbolically burn the old one, leaving behind all unnecessary baggage. And they welcome the New Year with an air of celebration. It’s not the partying, drinking or dancing with silly hats on their heads — that can be done any time of the year.
It’s the welcoming of hope that makes the New Year’s eve party different from others, and the first hangover of the year the most significant. Hope is personified by the resolutions that people make — and that is always to improve their lot — give up smoking, cut down on booze, go on a diet, lose weight, join a gym, make new friends, look for a date and so on.. No one makes resolutions which state that they will start smoking, eat junk food, put on weight, get drunk every evening, fight with their friends, break up with the spouse, or yell at the boss and lose their job.
It’s hope and the fear of being thought of as dull, that makes people resolve to party with a vengeance on New Year’s eve, even if it means hanging out with people they haven’t met all year, and are probably not going to, in the new year either.
But the compulsion to have fun on New Year’s eve makes anyone who is dancing on the same floor a buddy and confidant. When the New Year crackers are burst, strangers hug one another on the streets and wish everyone around a Happy New Year and remark how time has flown.
The morning-after has them hitting the ‘send all’ buttons on their cell phones and computers, to wish people whose faces they probably can’t recall. Then, within a week, the cheer is gone, the resolutions are put away like party decorations, the year is already old, and there’s 360 days — give or take a few — left to start feeling hopeful again, even if it’s only for a day.