The Illusion of New Year

People of my age who have been gone through many New Year celebrations have probably gone worn out of the festivity and started questioning the significance of that cultural celebration. Such questioning might have been instigated by the awful thought that the supposed new year does not differ much from the old one it has supplanted. In fair assessment, it is almost the same, if not has actually worsen a little.

If the charges is true, the legitimacy of its fervid expectation and lavish celebration is under suspicion. In places where I have been, New Year is celebrated pompously than Christmas. It could be considered as the national fiesta, where the entire country goes wild momentarily in bidding goodbye the old and in welcoming the coming year.

Does it worth the extravagant revelry? Especially when you find out the next morning the promised newness of things is mere illusion?

The disillusion seemingly is justified and the suspicion therefore is right.

In retrospect, New Year celebration is one cultural practice that survives the onslaught of enlightenment and secularization. A remaining artefact of the irrational past that evinces our society’s adamant resistance to go modernize, and was being structured and organized still by myths, metaphors, symbols and rituals.

Not really clear to me what inspired the primitive people to celebrate the succession of years. But among the archaic civilizations, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, traces of New Year celebration are visible. Probably, the feast was inspired by the natural cycle of life. Say, the burying of the sun in the evening and its reappearance the following morning. The weathering of leaves at fall and their revival comes spring time. Or the myth of the dying and rising gods could be another influence to this celebration.

Whichever could be the influence behind the New Year celebration, one thing can we surely deduce from it: death and destruction are not the final destiny of the created world. Ancient civilizations were convinced that they had to “cyclicize” time through cultural efforts, to give time a circular shape in order to enable time and the world continuously to regenerate itself and to prevent it from being reduced to chaos (JA:2008).

As generally observed, it is necessary for illusion to aggrandize its ritual exercise to amplify its social impact. Cyclical time with its celebration of New Year, therefore, has to be constructed and maintained through a meticulous observance of rites and feasts (JA:2008). The extreme revelry and festivity that go along with New Year celebration is done to help register into our consciousness that a way to start all over again is available to us. We might have missed many chances in the past, but as long as we go through this myth year after year, the chance for renewal is always an open option for us to choose. While waiting for that option to finally realized, let me greet you just the same a happy New Year!

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