I was called a party pooper when I was younger and for good reason. I really didn’t enjoy most parties. New Years was a great example of that. When I was a little kid I enjoyed it because we got to go up on the roof (yes, without safety helmet, pads or straps to make sure we didn’t fall! Such abusive times I grew up in!) and watch the fireworks. But after a while that got old and so did the whole holiday for me at least.
Honestly I just didn’t get it, didn’t really like what most people did to celebrate it (I don’t drink or smoke, so really what’s left except fattening food?), so for the most part I ignored it as much as possible. I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions long before most of my friends did. My entire “celebration” of the new year pretty much consisted in making sure I had all I needed days in advance so I could stay out of the stores and off the roads and either spent the evening at a church gathering (which I would have rather skipped most of the time) or at home in front of my TV (and later my computer).
But I always wondered about why it was such a big deal to many if not the vast majority of people.
Years go by and I had some great doors opened for me to travel and teach all over the world. From Africa to South East Asia (ten times and counting), plus visiting Spain, China, the Marshall Islands, Haiti and Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands), I’ve seen a lot of the world and many of its different cultures. I’ve had wonderful experiences and hope to continue having them if I can.
Then one day it hit me. In every one of these cultures I have visited, New Years is a big deal. All of them celebrate it and in Asia in particular it’s very important. So I did some research, and sure enough, New Years is celebrated in every culture I could find and has been for at least four millennia. Here’s just a few examples (using our calendar of course):
- The Jewish New Year (Sept. 4-6, 2013)
- Chinese New Year (January 31, 2014)
- Hindu New Year (November 4, 2013)
- Jain New Year (November 4, 2013 – Hindu and Jain New Year doesn’t usually fall on the same date but did last year)
- Islamic New Year (November 5th)
- Babylonian New Year (late March)
- Ancient Egyptian New Year (July 20th)
- Navajo New Year (at the start of October)
All these cultures, and more I’m sure, celebrate the beginning of a New Year. They do it at different times and in different ways, but they all do it. Now that just has to say something significant about human nature, doesn’t it?
I think it does and I think it points out to us that, like it or not, just about everyone, everywhere, is in constant need of a new start. Whether it’s because our own mistakes and misdeeds, or those of others, or just plain old hard times, the human heart cries out for a fresh new start.
Instinctively we all seem want and need a do-over but we all know we can’t turn back time and actually get one. So proclaiming a New Year is the next best thing I guess.
You can see this need when we say things like, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” This is a great example of the banal and obvious masquerading as wisdom. Everyone knows today’s the first day of the rest of their lives. But we seem to need to be reminded of it over and over again so that we can make every day a new start, a daily do-over if you will.
So while all of us, at least occasionally, need a new start we also know something else. An arbitrary date on the calendar doesn’t really provide one. It reminds us of our need and gives us a chance to start over but that’s all it can do for us.
Those who’ve spent their lives working with people know it really is possible to start new and fresh, but it’s anything but easy. So maybe January first didn’t give you a new start? Don’t worry about that; no day or date alone will ever be able to do that for you.
You have to make the right choices, get the right help (because you will need it) and make the right decisions in the right time and way, and then you’ll be starting over. Easy? No. If it was, everyone would do it and we wouldn’t see all the human wreckage around us that we do today.
Is it worth it? Oh yes, far more than I can tell. It’s worth trying over and over and over again until you get it right. Not just for you, but for friends and family and people you don’t even know yet. They are out there, and they’ll need your help someday. Starting over can make sure you are the right man or woman to help them when they need it.
So Happy New Year! Or should I say, Happy New Start or Happy Do-Over?