The month that begins today is named for the Roman god Janus, a two-faced being who looked both forward and backward, to the future and the past. And, it is fitting at this time of year to reflect on what happened in the past year and to plan for the year – beginning today.
But, it is also appropriate to take a holiday from time to time, to relax and enjoy a day with friends and family and to appreciate what are, after all, the truly meaningful things – things like life, love, health and happiness.
All of our problems and concerns will still be waiting for us tomorrow. And, it is not a bad lesson to remember that, in general, they can wait.
New Year’s Day actually is a perfect occasion for just such reflection. Something of a Seinfeld sort of holiday, it really is not about anything. It marks an entirely arbitrary calendar change that could just as easily be celebrated on any other date as other calendars have and some still do. It is not tied to any astronomical event, such as a solstice or equinox.
Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah and Yom Kippur are religious celebrations. Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July are rooted in patriotism and respect. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival tied to American history. Even Halloween began with All Saints Day.
But, New Year’s has no ties to faith, love of country, history or almost anything else. It is something of a tradition, but one that has no more fundamental moral significance than Super Bowl Sunday.
That absence, however, can be an advantage. With no presents to wrap, no turkey to cook or fireworks to watch, the day can be unscheduled and free of obligations or stress. At least for Americans, watching football is as much of a tradition as the day itself, but again, there is no requirement. For the majority of folks who do not have to work, the holiday imposes no duties or expectations.
That makes New Year’s Day an almost perfect holiday. It is an opportunity to spend time with family, friends or even alone, doing whatever is relaxing, fun, peaceful or exciting. That can mean a big meal with relatives, a quiet dinner with a friend, chips and salsa in front of the television or something else entirely. It could be fine day to ski or, if the weather holds, perhaps a bike ride.
That is the beauty of a holiday about nothing. It is entirely open to doing what we want. Enjoy it.
Happy New Year!