Monday, December 31

Heart Felt New Year Wishes

No 'Happy New Year' yells belting out from here I'm afraid.

Personally the calendar flip to a new century's digit seems of such an arbitrary value. And as a survivor of far too many New Year's Eve celebrations, anticipating party to excess, but later looking back with a bemused bewilderment at pre-hope versus the actual event I'm left wondering at why a lot of us bother. I've tried it with and without the alcoholic accelerant and seem to end up a cynical observer most of the time.

Perhaps that's just me. But like Xmas the main winners are the retail/restaurant/pub service outlets. Each year these industries promote an image of joyous consumption. And each year this brainwashing starts earlier.

But post celebration reality seems to be one of of debt, drink fuelled argument/violence, relationship breakdown, and immense loneliness for those members of our society who for reasons of their circumstances often feel estranged from the communal society touted as the spirit of the seasonal jollity.

Now I wasn't going to mention suicide rates, but reading back over the above, and realising how black my mood appears, and that honestly wasn't my original intent starting this piece, let's have a bit of good news to balance the scales:
"Contrary to past reports, depression and suicide rates actually fall during the holidays" L.A.Times (17 Dec 07)

Meanwhile I side with Thomas Mann:
"Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols"

Ways to celebrate the New Year?

Being close with ones you really care about, and they with you. And if that's not an option at present why not take Li Po's suggestion:

"All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other -
Only the mountain and I"

May your plans for 2008 be ones that you achieve. Those that bring you enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Whatever that may be for you.

And as for resolutions - pah. Easily made, easily lost. But why wait for an arbitrary point. Start each day anew.

Now where's that bottle of rum gone?


And you're not alone - here's John Lee Hooker with his song about the same problem:
link. You're doc will probably have some better ideas than a hot toddy.
Hence the fact that over christmas I was on the hill. If that had not been the case my telly would have gone out of the window. Blog pages up to date. Dawn
I'm sure this pithy piece strikes a chord with everyone, John. Well said. And a Happy New Year to you too.
well somehow i didn't think i was alone with this somewhat anti-seasonal thought
"Time has no divisions to mark its passage"? Actually it does. Well not time exactly, but the way humans measure it from Earth.

There are two particular times of year which are clearly marked, the winter and summer solstices, the shortest and longest days. Surely the winter solstice is one possible start to the year? The point at which the days start getting longer?

Then there are the seasonal changes. The first flowers mark the beginning of spring, the leaves changing colour and falling from the trees mark the beginning of autumn. Of course, these things don't happen on fixed dates, they're different every year and in different places on earth. But although you can't put a fixed date on it, spring is another possible start point of the year, the most natural one IMO.

If you must put a date on it, for human convenience, then it would be March 1st. This is not only the beginning of "meteorological spring" (as oppposed to "astronomical spring" on March 21st), it's also the original New Year's Day, determined when the Julian calendar was first invented, presumably to coincide with the seasons (spring being the first). Why else do you think that February has an odd number of days and the extra day in a leap year is added at the end of February? That's when the year really ends!

I mean, if your New Year's resolution is to go out walking more to get fit, isn't it more enjoyable to do that in spring than in the depths of winter?

Anyway, Happy New Year to all. I didn't celebrate it myself, but I did get some nice photos of the first sunrise of the year (see my website), although that didn't happen until Jan 2nd due to rubbish weather on the 1st.

Interesting thoughts Paul.

Personally the year starts Dec 21 for me.

The sun''s on its way back; The days start lengthening; And the buds are back on the trees;
Interesting that you should opt for the Winter start to the year rather than Spring. I must say that both have some merit.

One curious and interesting technical point though. Although Dec 22nd is the shortest day of the year (this year), the times of sunrise and sunset are a bit weird.

Sunset is at its earliest before the solstice, while sunrise is at its latest after the solstice.

For example, in Swansea the earliest sunset is at 16:06 from the 9th to the 16 December.

The we get the solstice on the 22nd.

Then the sunrise is at its latest from at 8:22 from the 26th December to the 4th of January!

I don't have more accurate times than that, but the midpoint of the latter is actually at 30th/31st December. Which is practically the New Year!

In fact, these times vary slightly from year to year, so it's fair to say that the latest sunrise occurs at approximately the New Year!

Is this a coincidence?

Of course, the latest sunrise is not quite the same thing as the shortest day (since the sunset is getting later every day), but for my purposes, I like to get up early to photograph sunrises, so it's when the sunrises start getting earlier that I start to notice the change.

I'm not saying that the Romans decided to change the start of the New Year from March 1st to January 1st for that reason, but it does give some food for thought...

its the lengthening days thats the trigger, rather than the season. after all Jan and Feb will assuredly be the coldest months, but at least there's more daylight to actually see something when you gaze through the window
True, but in the past I've always tended to think in terms of the "light half" of the year (when the days are longer than the nights) and the "dark half" of the year. These obviously start and end at the equinoxes rather than the solstices.

I must admit that I'm coming around to the idea of the shortest day triggering the key change, or the actual New Year's day, which is as near as makes no difference.

Pity the year always starts with such crap weather though! It doesn't inspire you to follow through on your new year's resolutions of going out walking a lot to get fit! :-(
That crap weather is part of the fun, after all it can only get better - we hope
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