The first days of the new year have arrived.
New Year’s is my favorite holiday because it is the one day of the year when people come together regardless of nationality, religion, creed or culture, to celebrate together.
Cultures around the world use a host of calendars, 2017 is 7525 in the Byzantine calendar, 6767 in the Assyrian calendar, 5777 in the Hebrew calendar, 4713 in the Chinese calendar, 2770 an urbe condita, aka since the founding of the city of Rome and thus the Roman Republic, 2561 in the Buddhist calendar, 1439 in the Islamic calendar, Heisei 29 in Japan, and 12017 in the Holocene calendar.
These calendars do not agree on the year and many do not mark Jan. 1 as the their start, yet even so, the peoples of the world have collectively agreed to for the sake of commerce, conversation and convenience to use the Gregorian calendar internationally and as the regular secular calendar in nearly all countries on Earth.
Worldwide celebrations are not simultaneous, as each time zone’s celebration is an hour apart for the length of an entire day, but seeing fireworks above Tokyo Bay, Sydney Harbor, the Blue Mosque, Red Square, the Parthenon, Big Ben and Times Square only adds to the anticipation of midnight and the calendar rollover reaching us in Northern Arizona.
The absurdity of New Year’s Eve is that we choose to celebrate an entirely contrived moment, created by assigning monumental importance on a particular time — midnight — in a particular place in our revolution around our sun — a few days after the winter solstice when Earth is on the far side of the sun from our galaxy’s center, just slightly above the galactic plane.
Regardless of all these technicalities, all human beings have the same concept of a year, just as we do a day, and thus the changing of the new year is a profound moment for us as individuals.
The end of the year allows us to reflect on all that’s happened in our last passage around our sun, the victories and losses, the deaths and births, the start of new enterprises and end of old empires.
As the year ends and the new one begins, we reflect on our loved ones, offering the lost ones a final reverence and remembering that our extended family, whether living across town, across the country or serving oversees, are celebrating the new year too.
New Year’s Eve also gives us a moment to remember that whether we speak English, Pitjantjatjara, Swahili, Basque, Ainu or Kutenai, whether we whisper prayers to Allah, Mother Earth, Vishnu, Yahweh or a pantheon, whether we elect a president, choose a parliament or follow a king, in Asia, Africa or North America, we are brothers and sisters, members of the same species celebrating one moment together, remembering our past and hoping for a better future tomorrow.
Happy New Year to you and yours.