Rethinking New Year’s Celebrations

by Theo Poward

 

New Year’s celebrations come at different times; East Asia will celebrate the Lunar New Year on the weekend starting February 16th; Many parts of Central Asia, Northern India and Iran will celebrate the New Year around the 20th of March; many other parts of South and South-East Asia will celebrate in mid-April; this is followed by the Islamic New Year, Muharram, which in 2018 will fall on the 11th of September.

There are many other New Years celebrations and festivals. Too many to list here, but what all these celebrations have in common is the idea of rebirth or renewal. The idea that the order that we have built needs to be reinstated, while leaving room for change and evolution.

One thing that is lost in our contemporary celebrations is the idea that order needs to be re-established. The Akitu festival of ancient Babylonia represented both the start of the harvest seasonal cycle and the commemoration of Marduk, the Sky God’s, defeat of Tiamat, the Sea Dragon. This conflict has parallels across Eurasia; (Zeus – Tython, Thor –  Jormundagandr, Michael – Lucifer). It represents the triumph of order over chaos; the basis of the peace that allows us to construct any kind of society. In the genesis creation myth, we see God literally pulling solid ground out of the primordial chaotic waters that contain the leviathan. New Years celebrations were there to remind the people how close to falling back into this chaotic state we really are. Order needs to be constantly re-established through ritual, otherwise the very fabric of reality will come apart at the seams, and we will be engulfed in a flood of waters that will destroy everything we have built.

Our modern festivals, in the west, tend to be much more forward looking and optimistic. The idea of a fresh start is novel but common and is probably best seen in the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. The weakness of these convictions might be linked to the disconnect with the understanding of conserving the order we have been given. Living up to an old standard that we have yet to meet, before we set ourselves new standards might encourage us to take our commitments more seriously. A combination of continuity and change gives us time to reflect, as we did a week ago, when we published a retrospective of 2017; while also looking forward to the new things that are ahead of us, things that we want to see done differently.

We are not looking for radical changes, we are not asking for a revolution; and yet we are looking for change. This new year we ask for a continuation of all that is good, and a continuation of work done to change what is bad. This isn’t a fresh start, it’s re-establishing an old commitment that we are yet to live up to.

The previous year has highlighted many things wrong with the world as it is, but has also offered up paths for improvement. Let us continue on these paths not just as a New Year’s resolution; let us continue year after year, constantly re-evaluating and re-establishing the same commitment to improve the way we do things, and learn from when we do things wrong.

We wish you all the best in this New Year.

Stone record at Behiston” by Dynamosquito is licensed under CC by S.A 2.0

 

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