New Year's Eve aftermath in New York City 2015. Photo by Anthony Quintano/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A New Year’s party? Bah, humbug!

  • December 30, 2017
I’ve never had much enthusiasm for New Year’s celebrations. Partly this is because of the utterly perverse timing of the holiday.

Push it ahead almost four months to Labour Day weekend (when summer wraps up and everybody’s scrambling to get back on board Joni Mitchell’s “carousel of time”) or even nine months to the spring equinox (when milder weather puts the wind in our tails and thaws the coagulated sap in our veins) and the world around us would both reflect and affirm this sense of a new beginning.

But coming up with a list of resolutions and drawing a fresh bead on one’s life goals is a grudging, thankless task in the cold, dark hollow of earliest January.

New Year’s has always felt to me like a shadowy, half-hearted add-on to the tenderness and warmth of what was celebrated just one week before.

Indeed with its rather desperate emphasis on partying and drinking (and with many newspapers dispensing their annual tips for hangover cures), New Year’s can feel like the anti-Christmas — a festival of dereliction and social panic designed to negate or erase all the serenity and gentle blessings we’ve just enjoyed.

My sense that there was something radically wrong about New Year’s celebrations was planted in about my seventh year when I jumped out of bed one brilliant New Year’s morning well ahead of my parents and, prowling through the tomb-quiet house, came upon their unlikely stash of discarded party detritus on the dining room table.

There was a pair of sparkly cone-shaped hats with elastic chinstraps, a plastic and cardboard horn with ragged red streamers, a nasty metal noisemaker that made a racket like rattled ball bearings when you spun it around by the handle.

What did any of this tawdry junk have to do with my normally sedate and responsible parents? I shuddered to imagine an environment or a context in which such garish gee-gaws would hold any appeal for them at all. 

Most years I manage to avoid attending any New Year’s celebrations at all, looking up from my book or a game of Scrabble with my wife when we hear the muffled midnight rumble of fireworks being ignited on the roof of City Hall and luxuriating in our dissociation from the melee underway downtown.

When I do get roped into a New Year’s house party, I make a point of disappearing by about 11:45, ducking into some out-of-the-way room — hopefully stocked with a few books — where I hunker down for the next half hour, re-emerging when the worst of the mania has passed.

It could be that, New Year’s-wise, I’m still in a state of reaction to the horrific party I attended in my 21st year. It was ‘thrown’ (and that really is the apt term in this case) by the less-than-stable sister of the woman I was going out with.

As is quite often the way in the peak socializing years of your 20s, there were multiple parties to choose from that night and by about 10:30 the sense started to dawn on a lot of her guests that this party was a dud and it was time to move on to a more promising fete. Our hostess caught wind of this rising sentiment and moved to bar our exit by nailing planks and 2x4s across her front and side doors. (I don’t suppose I need to mention that she rented.)

While she was nailing plywood sheeting over some of the more accessible main floor windows (and trying to mollify her increasingly anxious inmates about the fun they would have if they just gave her party a chance), I located and just managed to squeeze out through the milk box next to the nailed-up side door. 

I think it is the sense that Christmas is over and now life is about to revert to its usual grind that fuels the desperation I’ve always detected and abjured in New Year’s celebrations. The surest way I’ve discovered to defang this lesser holiday is to observe it as only one small part of the 12 days of Christmas.  

(Goodden is a writer in London, Ont. His latest book is Speakable Acts.)