I'm going through my Google Reader, checking out my subscribed blogs, and it's no surprise that most of them are wishing their readers to have a happy new year. It's more than a wish, it's almost a command. “Happy New Year” just shouts out at you, doesn't it? People said the same thing a year ago, and look how that turned out.
I could join and wish you a happy new year, but I wonder if that carries any legal obligation. Suppose you don't have a happy new year at all. Can you sue me? Have I become responsible for your happiness during the year? As much as I may want you all to have a happy new year, I'm afraid I don't have enough power to ensure that it actually happens. It's one of those things where you need to take responsibility for your own actions and hope that's sufficient.
Let's face it, the new year is really a contrived celebration. Many years ago, some old men decided to start counting the days until the Earth made enough revolutions around the Sun to get back to the same place. These old men didn't even know the Earth was moving around the Sun at the time, but all the pieces fit and they could count so many days until we got back where we started. Oh, it took a while before they had the calendar figured out completely. Someone had to add the leap year. Let's not forget that a lot of birthdays at the end of February got screwed when Roman Emperors decided to steal some days to make months named after them a day longer. People are always picking on February, so I presume that's why we put the extra day in the Leap Year there.
So even though it was arbitrarily considered the start of a New Year, January 1st has some real psychological impact on people. For instance, it's when they start their Resolutions for the new year. That means parking at my gym is going to be rough for the next month. Fortunately, most of those people burn out and leave by February. I don't really think it's the new year that inspires some attention to physical fitness, at least not by itself. Rather, it's probably due to all the food & drink consumed from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, and maybe also during football games and parades on New Year's Day. Once they get past that point, it seems like a good time to start working off that holiday fat. You can call it a resolution if you want, but I call it a lot of people who are too cheap or broke to buy new pants. Either that, or their vanity won't allow them to admit they went up a size or more.
When you sit and think about it, there's really nothing that's changed as a result of the new year. The holiday season would be over even if we started the new year in March. People would feel just as much need to drop a few pounds or at least stop living to such excess. The New Year is a contrived holiday. What are we really celebrating, after all?
Maybe that's why the climax of the celebration is really so short. I once spent New Year's Eve in Times Square with some friends. Basically, that entails going down there 12 hours before midnight so the cops can put you in a pen without food, water, shelter, or any toilet facilities. You can get out if you want, but then you can't get back in your same pen. You have to go further back down the street to get in another pen if you still want to celebrate. Of course, that means you're separated from your friends if they don't all go pee with you.
The street party is for the cheap folks, though. The real party happens in the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, but it's not cheap at all. People spend BIG bucks for a room with a view, and then more money for the party happening inside the hotel. I suppose it's worth it, though. For a fee, you don't freeze to death, you get food, drink, and access to bathrooms without losing your place.
All of this is just a prelude to the big moment, though. You know, where a big ball of flashing lights gradually lowers itself down a poll. Really, I'm not kidding. That's it. A million people gather to watch that damn ball lower itself, a bunch of confetti shoots all over the crowd and THEN…nothing happens. It's the new year. Whatever was happening before is still happening, except mail delivery stops and banks close for a day.
So it's 2009. I don't want to be a social outcast for not going along with the party spirit. Therefore, I wish you a Happy New Year*.
[* – This statement is in no way a binding agreement or guarantee that you will actually have a happy new year.]