Posted by: jevcat | January 1, 2011

On New Years and Fresh Beginnings

One of the benefits of living in a multi-cultural society – and there are many – is getting to celebrate other folks’ holidays as well as one’s own.  Today, however, is one I didn’t need to borrow:  New Year’s Day.

I’ve never been much for new year’s resolutions – as a matter of fact, for myself, I have been opposed to them on principle.  I’m not sure if it’s because, as a child, I saw them made and broken or whether it’s just a natural disinclination to conform, but if it’s the latter, it comes from a family tradition of, in our small and quiet way, not marching to a common drummer.

Take our celebration of this holiday:  instead of going out and tying one on, our New Year’s Eves were always spent at home (I’ve only been out once at Midnight, and that was a special favor to a guy I’d been dating for quite some years) with family and maybe one or two close friends.  We watched Guy Lombardo – or, when my brother and I got old enough to assert ourselves, Dick Clark (okay, that part was not non-comformist), and at Midnight had cocktail franks with Parker House rolls, then to bed.

It’s a comfortable tradition – no hangovers – but it does rather make all New Year’s Eves blend into each other.  I do remember one year, a little past Midnight, my brother and I having wrestled the tv tuner to Dick Clark’s show, Al Green came on.  Our grandfather, who did not approve anything but Guy Lombardo for the evening, and whose ideas on race made Archie Bunker’s look enlightened, eyed the screen suspiciously.  “Who’s that?” he demanded.  “Al Green,” we responded.  He regarded the screen in silence for a moment, then said with some asperity, “He looks black to me.”  Yes, we do remember that year …

New Year’s Day was a family movie and eat leftovers or something that requires little or no effort (that part of the tradition may have stemmed from Mom’s desire not to cook two massive meals in one week).

My brother now goes out now, but his celebration still isn’t exactly Rabelaisian, and I keep the stay-at-home tradition (although this year we did have a small variance:  we dispensed with the Parker House rolls and instead my Beloved used refrigerator crescent roll dough to make pigs-in-blankets).

We don’t change easily in my family, and maybe that’s another reason I don’t make new year’s resolutions.  The closest I come is not in January but in the fall, at Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.  I love that tradition of examining one’s life as the year changes, making amends, starting the year with a slate made fresh not just by time but by one’s own efforts, with relationships repaired and prepared to move forward.

The Rosh Hashanah tradition acknowledges that human beings do fail, do make mistakes, but it also tells us that we can change that, that what we knock down we can also build up.  I like that, and I tend to bring something of that with me to the secular new year in January – and it’s also why I like celebrating other cultures’ new years:  because each one is a new opportunity to begin again.

What I don’t get right on January 1, I can work on a few weeks later at the Asian Lunar New Year (and get to eat Chinese food, to boot), and there’ll be other chances throughout the year:  in early Jewish tradition, Passover, in spring, was a new year festival; later tradition made Rosh Hashanah, in the early fall, the new year; later fall has the Celtic new year; the Sunday of Advent I marks the Christian liturgical new year – and that brings us back to January 1:  all chances to start over, to get it “right.”  I’ll probably need them all, but one of these years …

May the new year bring us all the gift of fresh chances, and many blessings.


  1. This piece on resolutions is really good. Some of it I knew instinctively
    because of our exchanges the past eight years! It really calls attention to the wonderful variety of people we have the privilege of learning from and living with. I don’t make new year’s resolutions because each day starts a new year in which I make the attempt to be the best I can be and the most I can do for others. Blessings.

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