There’s a refreshing sense of renewal and reinvention at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. Each year, brief scènes de vie filled with three hundred and sixty-five days flash before your eyes as the fireworks burst and the midnight hour proclaims a New Year.
One year. One pie slice of a whole lifetime. One more ring on the cross-section of a tree trunk. How time passes! That singular thought flows through each mind on New Year’s Eve as we mentally toss a shoulder-glance backward on the previous year and realize how quickly it slipped away like a sip of champagne after a lengthy toast.
The crowds sing “Auld Lang Syne.” The night sky is a burst of fire and light. The television announcers shout over revelry. The streets are packed with people in glitter and glad tidings. The world is up past bedtime.
Suddenly new possibilities lay before you. New resolutions, new ideas, a whole new world. Each year is a rebirth, a chance to start over and chase down your dreams. On New Year’s Eve, the broad scope of an unknown yet exciting future unrolls at your feet like a Hollywood red carpet.
While effervescent ideas of upcoming adventures and fresh opportunities lay in wait, the most important part of the New Year celebration is found within the Scots poem commonly sung just after midnight. Auld Lang Syne refers to days gone by, a phrase used to remember times past and those who went before us. It is an ode to memory, as if to begin a story of long ago by stating Once Upon a Time….
Therefore, once upon a time, the world decided on a single date when calendars would flip from year to year and everyone would have a chance to begin a new chapter of life. Once upon a time, on New Year’s Eve, the Danish began smashing old plates on friend’s doorsteps to show loyalty, Irish women began sleeping with mistletoe leaves under their pillows in hopes of bringing their future husbands, and the people of the Philippines started eating twelve pieces of fruit. Once upon a time, the Americans started serving black-eyed peas for luck and sharing a kiss at midnight to assure a year of affection, and once upon a time, when Big Ben struck twelve and the ball dropped in Times Square, the world began singing songs to remember the dearly departed and to proclaim “out with the old, in with the new!”
Traditions begin in ways that, within time, are lost to memory, but continuing a tradition is the key to keeping it alive by honoring the past and ushering in a new age. From those who went before us, I am certain they would look back and tell us all great tidbits of advice. Advice is a form of nostalgia, and as wisdom comes with age, it is with knowledge of life that our forefathers can bestow great nuggets of guidance as the year turns.
Dance. Sing. Floss. Travel. Respect your elders. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Study hard, laugh often, and keep your honor. Pursue joy, not happiness. Be polite, and choose your battles wisely. Remember, today is the only guarantee you get. Life is fleeting and unfair, but justly so. Do one thing every day that scares you. Keep your old love letters, and throw away your old bank statements. Realize how much possibility lay before you. Your choices are only half chance – so are everybody else’s.
As time goes on, some people wish they could live forever and never grow old and never die. Such a sentiment is enticing, yet we must remember there is greatness in the passing of time and the beauty of age. It is just like what Achilles said about the immortal gods on Mount Olympus who envy us. The gods envy the humans because we are mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. We shall never be lovelier than we are right now. Carpe diem.