Happy New Year... and other assorted thoughts


So here we are… the end of another calendar year.

People will celebrate -- perhaps looking back at 2012 with fondness, and perhaps looking back with disgust -- but overall, no matter how it is recalled, this one promises to be one of those with difficult to find and likely misplaced memories.

It’s not the end of a millennium… or the beginning of a new century… or some flipping over of a decade… or anything that triggers a quick where-were-you-when association.

The numbers… 2-0-1-3… have undoubtedly already been made into glasses and souvenirs, but they won’t look particularly fashionable in a new millennicenturdecade or double-zero-middle way.

In fact, about the only truly special thing that comes to mind as amazing is that the world didn’t blow up ten days before the New Year began. (When a different calendar ended.)

And yet, I always find myself fascinated by the ending of a calendar year for pretty much the very reason that we approach them as memorable… putting so much emphasis on something that might really be summed up as nothing much more than an excuse to stay up late and have a party. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

For me, the true beginning of the year has always seemed to take place in September. And by that, I mean the school year and Labor Day weekend.

It signaled the end of the summer vacation… and the start of a new school year also usually involved the elevation to a new grade.

There was a rhythm to it, and an undeniable sense of normalcy. From nursery school to kindergarten… kindergarten to first grade… elementary school to high school… on to college… even in graduate studies… an annual progression… an advancement to new responsibilities. Always based around the school year, which began in late August or early September.

In so many ways, New Year’s celebrations involved a break from the routine for a bit… not a true movement to the new chapter.

And amazingly… even in those few years of young adulthood where a change of a number might have taken hold and become the new yardstick… it couldn’t fight the realities of the world.

Work is subject to a fiscal year.

The church matches most elements up against the school year.

Your children are born and quickly return your calendars to a world that begins… in America… in August-September.

And, you also are aware of other celebrations. Chinese New Year, as one example, is the most celebrated event of Chinese holidays. That doesn’t involve January 1st.

Several religions celebrate a New Year at different times.

The point is… while the transition between December 31st and January 1st is recognized in some way by virtually everyone… for many people that is simply a tip of the cap to a common language, a foundation of sorts that allows us all to work from a common point of reference -- and for those people, it does not hold the same tradition of transition… leaving the past behind… and new beginnings.

Ah… new beginnings.


Have you ever thought about how widespread and varied the concept is?

For many it has a personal meaning… to improve health and fitness… to not take little things for granted… and generally to improve.

For others the meanings can be symbolic (such as “out with the old and in with the new” approaches to putting the bad behind you and making way for the good). It can be spiritual… social… financial… and yet it always seems to come down to the same elements…



An overall transition from where a person is to where they want to be.

How long do you say “Happy New Year” to people?

I usually begin thinking about it around the 3rd of January.

I might not see people on January 1st. It’s the holiday. So on January 2nd, most of the people I come across I haven’t seen yet in the New Year… and almost without thinking I’ll wish them well with a “Happy New Year” in the greeting.

On January 3rd, I’m beginning to see people for the second… third… and more times in the New Year. It starts to sound a bit off as a closing wish on an e-mail. In short, when I find myself thinking about whether or not to say it… or when it sounds odd to say it… it’s generally the right time to stop saying it.

Or is it?

“An overall transition from where a person is to where they want to be.”

That was my summary just moments ago.

But when is the New Year?

Is it January 1st? Is it the school year? Is it a celebration that takes place based on the change of seasons or a religious holiday?

Or… perhaps… is it even just when someone takes the steps to make a change… an improvement… and begin a transition from where a person is to where they want to be?

And so we return to that common ground… a yardstick to measure with… and, I suppose, January 1st.

I wish you a Happy New Year. I hope 2013 brings you and your family health and happiness. And, mostly, I hope it finds you satisfied with where you are, and moving closer to where you want to be.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com