When is it no longer the New Year?


Happy New Year!

As I wrap up the final edits on this piece, I feel comfortable saying that I intend for these moments to be the last time I offer such wishes in 2016. After all, it seems to me that a week is long enough.

Or is it?

I mean… it’s not that I don’t wish you a good year from this point on. (I do.) Instead, it’s just that each year I find myself getting a bit more prickly about when the time is right to actually stop saying “Happy New Year” to people.

(Yes. I said “more prickley”… get over it. It sounds funner that way.)

As I see it, there are basically three generalities that are part of any thoughts or discussions for finding an appropriate date to stop saying Happy New Year…

The next holiday

Until you get your checks right

The first time you see someone

We’ll start with the holidays.

It almost feels appropriate in this debate. The holiday that follows New Year’s in the United States honors the brilliant Martin Luther King, Jr., and falls on the third Monday of the month. Potentially a bit of a stretch when you look at 18 to 20 days, but not too outrageous. And yet…

Let’s start by being literal about wishes following the holiday. How often do you toast a St. Patrick’s Day on March 27th? Do you ever offer best wishes for Halloween on November 10th? On December 2nd, are you greeting people with Thanksgiving tidings?

Sure… there are probably plenty of people responding to the mention of toasting St. Patrick’s on the 27th of March with raised eyebrows of excitement followed by deliberate consideration. Unfortunately, they lose any possible attempt at making a case for follow up arguments during the hangover the next morning. Still… the first item against using the next holiday as a marker is that most holidays end with the holiday date.

Perhaps you want to be more open. It isn’t the holiday, but the season. Halloween leads to Thanksgiving which makes way for Christmas and so on. Well… yeah… no.

Christmas has become a mass consumerism tidal wave that begins building strength in August. (Heck, you could make an argument based on those out for post-Christmas sales, looking to supply next year, that the Christmas rush begins on December 26th.) Sure, you get things like barbecues from Memorial Day and July 4th. Still… no.

Several years ago I went out with some friends to a comedy club in late January. For some reason, to this day I recall it was 1992 and the Sunday after recognizing Dr. King. That would make it the 26th. The first comedian came out and wished us all a “Happy New Year” to start his set. And it wasn’t a line to segue into his act. He didn’t kick off a debate about it being late January, nor did he ask if we got everything we wanted for Christmas. The club wasn’t still decorated for any December holidays. It was just “Happy New Year” and you can sense he lost the entire audience for a moment as they shook their heads.

Trying to argue that it’s ok to be saying “Happy New Year” on January 28th because it’s still fresh and seasonal seems a bit hollow.

So… next holiday... no. For a variety of reasons, it just seems too long and missing in specifics.

Next up… how long do you write the wrong year? I made the joke initially about checks, but I know we can all appreciate the frustrations that come with habitual writing of the previous year all over the place. This applies less and less to checks as technology changes the way we bank. And yet, the concept holds true. We all laugh when December turns to January and we date things incorrectly.

The trouble with this one can be found on June 31st.

Today, some of us are still dating things with 2015. A few will continue doing so into February. And while it seems like that has to do with the New Year, it’s honestly just a different version of not knowing what day of the week it is… missing when one month becomes the next… not recognizing that June only has 30 days… stuff like that. Absent-minded-change-of-routine-whatever.

So how about the third option… a seemingly sensible one… wishing someone a Happy New Year the first time you see them that year?

Again… no. Because you might not see someone until July or August or five years down the road. And honestly, if someone is so regular in your life or important to you that you want to say it, then you should see them at work, around your neighborhood, or know how to send them an e-mail.

You should understand that I wish you the best every day. Good morning… good afternoon… good evening… from the start January all the way to the end of December, and then around the calendar again. The reality is New Year’s wishes fall into a special category that eludes most other holidays. There is a post-holiday run where the well-wishing is almost expected, and definitely appropriate. However, there needs to be some sort of way to determine when a New Year is no longer new.

For me, a week seems just about right.

A friend of mine got lost in her Christmas card writing this year. On the fly, she adjusted and decided to send out New Year’s cards. Love the idea… and enjoyed getting her card, with pictures of the kids. (Thank you for including Terry and I.) How long would it take for such a card to arrive in your mailbox? 5-7 days seems about the extreme length for something not being sent internationally.

We can afford some wiggle room in letting that week be five, seven, or even eight days. We can adjust and debate allowances for the work week, two weekends, or where the 1st might fall from year to year. For me though, January 8th seems like the latest date to wrap things up.

And so… Happy New Year.

It’s time to put the expressing of wishes away for the year. (And if you haven’t… take down your tree.)

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