Sometimes, I wish I was Chinese. Especially when we approach New Year, I really, really wish I could have a New Year’s celebration like theirs, complete with those magnificent Chinese dragons.
Then, of course, there’s the added benefit of Chinese tea – cha. This is a people that fully understands just how relevant tea is to the well-being of the human race. Unfortunately, Chinese tea is rarely served with cakes and scones – a major drawback, in my book, as is the lack of chocolate as a central ingredient in their otherwise fabulous cuisine.
Given today’s date, let us return to the subject of New Year. It is interesting that most people I know feel obliged to celebrate this marking of time, rather than actually enjoying doing so. Yes, yes, we all enjoy a big party – and the fireworks, love the fireworks, yet another thing to thank our Chinese friends for – but New Year is so loaded with expectations that sometimes it all feels a bit too much. Plus there’s that other New Year nasty, a little thing spelled R-E-S-O-L-U-T-I-O-N-S.
So far, I’ve never delivered on a single one of the resolutions I’ve made. Even more depressing, they have been of similar nature year after year, along the lines of “lose weight”, “become healthier”, “workout regularly”, “fit into red dress again”, “only eat chocolate once every fortnight”. (That last one was a dead duck in the water the moment I expressed it, but I wade in seas of self-delusion on St Sylvester’s Night) Utterly pathetic, which is why this year my resolution is to not make any resolution. Or at least to make a relevant resolution.
People have always been fascinated by the passing of time. I bet you already our ancient forebears, the cave dwellers, had some point in time at which the old year passed to become a new year. Not entirely sure if they used the same date we do, in many cultures the New Year coincides with spring rather than mid-winter, but on a given day – night – the clan leader would stand up, clear his throat and raise his equivalent of a champagne flute, toasting the new year. I do, however, have serious doubts as to this long dead ancestor expressing any New Year vows. He might express a wish that the clan might make it through the coming year without being eaten by a cave lion, or starving due to bad hunters luck, but that was about it. Life was far too primitive for anyone to concern themselves with character development – all focus was on survival.
Our lives are no longer that primitive. Most of us have food on our tables, a roof over our head. Okay, so many of us don’t eat lobster and canard confité on a daily basis, nor do we wander about uncorking bottles of Cristal right left and centre. The majority of us live in functional rather than opulent homes, we don’t have an Audi R8 or two in our garages (more’s the pity. I’d just love to have one of those) and our hubbies don’t drop boxes from Cartier in our laps. But in general, we live good lives – at least from a material point of view.
So, obviously, we need to challenges to pimp up our otherwise humdrum lives – how else to explain these recurring resolutions – or maybe they’re just an indication of the masochistic streak all of us have, seeing as most resolutions only serve the purpose of giving us the wherewithal with which to beat ourselves up – given that we don’t deliver on them.
Aha! I hear squeaks of protest. Humdrum lives, someone says, sounding quite upset. No, you’re right, dear reader. The fact that we no longer have to struggle with survival has not made our lives easier. It is no longer enough to bring home a shank of meat to the communal table, with the odd piece of fur with which to clothe ourselves. Sadly, these days of simplicity are long gone. Instead, we live in a world that has become very complex and very fast. Our days rush by, planned down to the nearest quarter of an hour. Some mornings, it suffices to glance at the calendar on your phone to feel exhausted – before breakfast. Further to this, we must all uphold a social presence, we should be fit and chirpy, we really ought to have an interesting hobby, and, of course, constantly develop our skills, our platforms, our interests, our physique. Bleh!
For some reason, New Year has become the date when we all must set up new targets for ourselves – challenges to further spice up our lives. Or maybe it’s rather about a potential new start, an opportunity to right previous wrongs, to improve and develop… Sheesh! I get a headache just contemplating all my improvement potential.
This year, as stated above, yours truly will make no resolutions. None. This is not the same as considering myself perfect – unimprovable, so to say. Yes, I have bad hair days. Yes, there are times when my temper runs away from me, and the resulting explosion is … colourful, to say the least. Definitely, there are skills I should work on and platforms I should build. I should shed a number of kilos. I should workout regularly. I should definitely abstain from chocolate – I won’t of course. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I guess this means my only resolution for 2014 is to accept myself just as I am, warts and all. I sure hope I deliver on this one, as otherwise the fallout may be difficult to handle.
The significance of a new year are varied, but most of all it comes down to hope – hope that the new year will treat us kindly, that it will be a better – or at least as good as – year than the one we are leaving behind. We hope that we will be spared the pain of losing someone dear, that our children will prosper, and that the world as we know it will survive yet another year.
I hope all of that too – of course I do. I keep on hoping that one year the world might actually experience 12 months of peace – everywhere. That people will not suffer the terrors of war, that little children won’t die of starvation, that little girls will be given the same rights to education as little boys, that we will all wake up to the fact that this planet of ours is wheezing under the strain of our way of life and do something about it…
Fortunately, 2014 has the makings of a good year. Seven centuries since Bannockburn calls for celebration. A hundred years since the outbreak of WW1 is perhaps less of an occasion for cheering out loud – except to rejoice in the fact that the world survived TWO world wars in the 20th century. It is also the year of the Horse as per the Chinese Zodiac, and as all us horse-lovers know, horses are nice, wonderful animals, which promises a nice, wonderful year. Plus, the Chinese Horse is a good-luck horse, which doesn’t sound at all bad, does it?
Ultimately, a new year is an opportunity to turn a new leaf. I might not make any resolutions, but I can assure you I have plenty leaves to turn. Some, I hope, will end up published. Some will end up here. And one contains a heartfelt wish that all of you may have a fantastic year.
Happy New Year, people, and as C.S.Lewis once wrote: “Onwards and upwards!”