Out with the old

Given that an idea of a year is typically abstract, it’s quite difficult to watch 2007 arrive. Nonetheless many were no doubt raising a glass to Bacchus (or Dionysus, depending on which classics you’re going by) at 00:00:01 1/1/2007, and perhaps largely cursing the same god hours later.

But even if New Year’s Eve may have more in common with Bacchanalia than its more traditional origins of warding off evil (1), New Year’s is that rare thing: a festival that is not only unarbitrary, but also has a point, no matter how rigorously enforced the fun is (2), nor how much of a social pariah you become should you utter the dreaded words: “I think I’ll have a quiet evening in tonight.”

Seeing as we’re stuck with something called a calendar, we might as well make use of it and what better way to celebrate with than a party, and it especially helps if you know what you’re celebrating.

Valentine’s Day? Not so much a celebration as a reminder of that have’s and have nots, and woe betide if you’re lacking in both money and partner. Hallowe’en? A largely American invention that districts from All Saints Day. Bonfire Night? If the state of dissatisfaction with the current state of government is anything to go by, you’d think Guy Fawkes would have done us all a favour. Anyway, at least it gives us an opportunity to pander to our more pyromanical tendencies. And summer is a bit of a damp squib when it comes to parties, hence the evolution of the music festival.

No, the New Year is there, it is an inevitability and no matter what your religion, its impossible to ignore, largely because no matter what sector you work it’s guaranteed January the 1st is an impossible day to find the staff.

And so we embrace NYE. It’s easier to understand. Not as messy as all those religious festivals, where people like to remind you why you’re actually celebrating (3) , it’s uncomplicated, involves very little stress, unless you’re the host or hostess of a party, and is perfectly acceptable to call in sick the next day. In fact, like the quiet night in, its almost frowned upon if you’re not in work. Or if you are, that you’re not working off a hangover of epic proportions.

New Year’s simplicity is also inspiring. Notwithstanding you can give up smoking, shed a few pounds or look into changing your life at any point of the year, the freshness and simplicity of a festival with no strings attached gives birth to extra resolutions, some of which Dionysus may have just played a part in. But then, in true homo sapien style, that complicates things, and it all goes downhill from thereon in, culminating in Christmas, a festival so complicated in both planning and understanding that the National Secular Society are quite happy to appear on Radio 4 and proclaim it is A Good Thing that children don’t know why its called Christmas. They may have a point, but only from a logistical point of view.

In fact the New Year is so uncomplicated, other religions could learn a lot from it. Or alternatively we could just revive Bacchanalia, a distinctly uncomplicated and, technically, religious festival.

Happy 2007.

(1) Although it’s a wonderfully British response to disaster should evil occur – just head down the pub. And if the pub’s shut, then a cup of tea will do.

(2) Both through peer pressure and those who work in the health and safety field… possibly one time of the year where the words fun and health and safety are not mutually incompatible.

(3) Not withstanding the fact the main Christian festival is sidelined for a far lesser event, a Jew was crucified at Passover and now a Muslim hanged at Eid. Festive greetings (not in the season sense; that would be season’s greetings) never seemed more ironic.

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