In this modern world of ours drowned in materialism and an obsession with personal pleasures, people have become increasingly self-centered and begun to shut themselves off from meaningful social interactions, thus causing divisions and barriers in society. Seldom found are opportunities that allow people to gather and take a step back to reflect on their collective pasts and celebrate the present as they prepare for the future.
One such rare opportunity is the brief period of respite at the end of a year, usually extending until the beginning of the following year, known also as New Years’ Day. During this time, people around the globe come together to celebrate their shared heritage and cultures whilst also refreshing themselves and socializing in the process.
On close inspection, it is intriguing to see how different cultures commemorate the start of a new year in different ways while also sharing some subtle similarities. While the central themes of unity, gratitude, and a willingness to walk forward while embracing the experiences of the past are commonplace amongst most, there is many-a-tradition that sets apart different methods of celebrating this global event.
This is best exemplified by the Chinese, who view the New Years’ Day as a time to feast and visit family members. The traditional celebration of the Chinese New Year involves firecrackers, firework, red clothes, and decoration symbolizing the preparations to usher out the previous year and invite prosperity and luck into the following one. The young are often given money in colourful red envelopes.
Watching the proverbial ball drop to mark the end of the year in the United States is a long-standing custom that draws large crowds to Times Square to witness the spectacle.
While the bone-chilling climate of the season does not keep Canadians from beginning the new year with winter favourite sport—ice fishing, the Japanese commemorate their New Year festival by savouring traditional delicacies in the comfort of their homes. On the night of New Years’ eve, bells may be heard tolling from every Buddhist temple across Japan.
There is one thing common however, that is common amongst most parts of the world. Regardless of where one lives, the year-end vacation is undoubtedly amongst the most anticipated holidays in a year. After an entire year’s worth of arduous work and fatigue, people of all ages naturally look forward to the holidays granted during year end.
For both children and adults, this temporary leave from schools and workplaces provides the perfect opportunity not only to indulge in one’s hobbies and interests without the constant burden of work-related obligations but also to spend quality time with one’s family and loved ones. Most importantly, this break allows people to recharge and prepare themselves for a new phase of their life, allowing them to begin the following year full of enthusiasm and resolve.
Many utilize the duration of these vacations to tour new and exciting places. Sydney’s spectacular cruise show, Scotland’s colourful firework display, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and Bangkok’s night long party spots are among popular destinations commonly visited by tourists during this final stretch of the year.
My personal favourite New Years’ experience stems from a visit to Thailand with my family. After touring around various parts of the country for four days starting Christmas, I found myself in one of Bangkok’s opulent parties on New Years’ eve. The excited hustle of the crowd, the lavish food arrangements and the mesmerizing view of the sea filled me with anticipation for the coming year. Once the clock struck twelve, pyrotechnics set the sky alight and warm wishes filled the air with an aura of hope and love. It was an experience I can never forget.
I opine that the first of January, is a unique and special day since it represents something extremely significant to people across the world, including both men and women, children and adults, the rich and the poor. Be it a student’s hope for passing with flying colours, an entrepreneur’s hope for a prosperous year or a mother’s hope for the welfare of her children, the first day of the year symbolizes to them all, a fresh and hopeful start.
Everything gradually returns to a steady norm as the celebrations come to an end and the days go by. People rarely notice as they once more lose touch with others around them and are enticed into the never-ending pursuit of personal pleasures.
While aiming towards the future is unquestionably vital, I think it is equally prudent to occasionally pause and reflect. New Years’ Day offers the perfect opportunity for us to analyse our mistakes in the past and resolve not to make them again, so that we may become better people in the years that follow.
By: Rudraksh Kashyap
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