Happy New Year
In a few days, it will be New Year’s Eve, when Scots like my mother’s family celebrate Hogmanay. The Scots seem to attach more importance to Hogmanay than they do to Christmas, but at one time both were celebrated at the same time – on the shortest day, the 21st December. This was when ancient societies in the northern hemisphere performed rituals to ensure the rebirth of the sun because they depended on it for their survival.
January is named after the Roman two-faced god Janus, who looks in two directions at the same time. He was the god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings. New Year is the end of the old year, the beginning of the new, when TV companies fill the schedules with programmes about the highlights of the past year and some of us make resolutions we’ll probably forget within weeks.
Since those of us who are fortunate to live in the affluent developed world don’t depend on nature to the same extent as those who live in the undeveloped world, the timing of these new beginnings and stocktakings is determined by tradition, not necessity. When we wake up on January 1st, nothing much will have changed except that some might have a bit of a sore head. But midwinter is a time to plan and renew, if only because the weather keeps us indoors.
2005 has been an eventful year. I haven’t done much, but a family bereavement and my son’s absence for most of the year have had a significant effect. Then there was the tsunami, the hurricanes and earthquakes that didn’t affect most of us, but did move many to contribute to the relief efforts and to think about our own good fortune. Many people will be wondering, what’s next? When something drastic’s happened, like an unexpected death in the family, or a natural disaster, it’s understandable to feel apprehensive about the future, but we might try to avoid it by remembering that sometimes we’ll get a pleasant surprise tomorrow, not bad news. A few years ago there was a poem by Sheenagh Pugh on London Underground trains called ‘Sometimes’ that ended like this:
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
Happy New Year.