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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 44.9653, -69.1086
New Year's Day is unarguably my least favorite holiday. I have only infrequently enjoyed celebrating a New Year's Eve, even in high school and college when parties were abundant and generally stupid, with my dates' parents embarrassingly dressing up in diapers and acting infantile. Was this to impress their young? It certainly did, but not in the way I think those parents expected. And where was there to go after we escaped a family's party? Only to another home, probably no better, or to a bar, which has never appealed to me. So we'd drive around, find a place to park, and finally come home after midnight was acceptably behind us.
My favorite New Year's Eve was actually when I lived in Thailand, when 2011 was turning into 2012. I was staying at the UBaan Guesthouse, a house whose name means "at home," with rental rooms in a difficult to find alley in a little corner of Bangkok. Even local tuktuk drivers had difficulty finding UBaan. Our hostess, Joy (aptly named), had invited all her guests to a New Year's Eve party right in the entry room. She and her sister were preparing traditional Thai foods, cooked in woks on the floor, one with meat, and one, especially for me and one other vegan, without. Most of the people who came were very young, from many countries, and it was a festive gathering. I met an interesting woman who lived in Hong Kong, young men from Germany and Sweden, an older pair of gentlemen from I don't remember where, a newly married couple from the US, and several other individuals from different parts of Europe and Asia. I was by no means the only solo traveler. We ate, sang songs (mostly in English), played a few games, and shared our stories of why we were in Bangkok for the New Year. By that time I had been living in Pathumthani, Thailand for two months and was now in Bangkok awaiting my youngest daughter's arrival from China, on her long school break for the winter holidays. Laila would come on January 2nd, and we would have some time together for me to show her parts of Thailand, and for us both to explore VietNam and Cambodia. And, on January first, I was planning on taking a tour of Ayuthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, so I was happy and excited anticipating that exploration. New Year's Eve was very enjoyable that year. Joy made everyone feel welcome; it turned out to be a very lovely inclusive gathering of many otherwise potentially isolated souls who might have endured a lonely turn of the year in a very foreign city.
In thinking back to other New Year's Eves, I did have three other favorites, even more so than in Bangkok, and those were when each of my children was an infant. Sitting in my rocking chair, in the sweet darkness of those nights, nursing my babies, I was reminded of another young mother adoring her baby; this was heaven. Thinking of each year slipping away, wondering what my little ones would be like and do in the coming year, the promise was exciting and unending. Youth! We had decades and decades ahead of us, always continuing, seemingly everlasting. I think I was happiest when my children were tiny. Now it is a more moderate feeling of joy; in our philosophical older years we accept that there is an eventual ending.
Another New Year's Eve that I thoroughly enjoyed was when our two youngest children were still living at home. I love to dance, so we all went to a contradancing party in southern Maine. At midnight everyone drank a toast to the New Year; the children raised cups of apple juice, but the adults had champagne in their glasses. With the intricate and energetic dancing, the wonderful live music, and being together with family and contradancing friends, this was truly a celebratory evening, enjoyable on all levels, a very lovely way for our family to welcome in another new year. And, even then, I knew these enchanting days with the children still living at home with us were fleeting, so that added another layer to my bittersweet happiness, being aware of holding on tightly to the enjoyment of this time, this night, these years.
My middle brother, Jim, professes not to celebrate holidays, birthdays included, as he says that every day one awakens is a good day, since it means one is still alive. On one very basic level this is true, but I feel we should celebrate everything that we can, including being exposed as much as possible to other cultures' special celebrations, and partaking of their joy. Why not? Celebrations can expand us, transport us to exhilaration, help us to understand others and their cultures. There is no downside; they can only increase our delight in living. So each day should be a celebration, an acknowledgement of earthly potential, each morning an unopened gift. As Maya Angelou said, "This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before."
This year's turning was a quiet one for me and Bill. None of the children made it home for Christmas, but it turned out to be a very pleasant, comfortable, and merry holiday. We were going to go in for Bangor's First Night celebrations; there were two classical concerts that I was happily anticipating hearing, but somehow as the evening wore on, neither of us wanted to make the half hour drive into Bangor, so we decided to stay home. We both fell asleep long before midnight, and awoke to a lovely dark and cold winter's morning, eventually turning bright and sunny, a welcome start to another new year, which came anyway--even without our watching and waiting for it. Did we celebrate? No, we didn't need the external trappings of a boisterous party, or even raise a glass in a toast that evening, but on a much more internal and personal level we acknowledged the happiness that enfolds us as we continue on our travels around the sun, year after year after year.
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