It’s been just more than a week since 2016 started, and I bet you’ve already given up on your New Year’s resolution if you didn’t bother making one in the first place (like me). Of the forty five percent of Americans who chose to make a New Year’s resolution, one third give up by the end of January.
For a mere few weeks, people reallocate their spending from liquor stores to gyms. And then back again. If people need to wait for the New Year to gain enough motivation to set and reach a new goal, then they probably aren’t all that motivated to reach it in the first place. Humans are habitual creatures by nature, and if people want to make changes in their lives, then they need to make those new changes habitual by starting small, being honest with themselves and making the changes part of a new lifestyle. After all, is the middle of January the time when you’re most likely to venture down to the Plex? My guess is most likely not. When it’s cold, gray and dismal outside, people just want to watch Netflix in bed.
So, what better time to start anew than in the midst of winter? Does the frozen ground and road-stained snow not just exude a feeling of fresh starts and for a fresh new year? Perhaps only for college students does January 1st come with any sort of blank slate--students get to start a new semester--but even still, we are right in the middle of an academic year, so it still does not do much in the name of newness.
New Year's comes at too strange a time to really feel and act as a blank or clean slate. So, why do we try to pretend January 1st, in all its midwinter gloom, is a day of freshness or for starting over? It’s merely a now-common tradition based on an ancient Roman holiday feast for their god Janus, who stood for beginnings and doorways.
In terms of the actual celebration of the New Year, most people view the festivities through their screens rather than with their own eyes. On January 1st, social media is invariably littered with posts, pictures and videos of everybody’s celebrations to ring in the New Year. Instead of celebrating the end of a year and the start of another, even though the reasoning for the date seems antiquated, New Year's Eve has turned into a competition.
The competition is to see who is having the most fun, glamorous, flashy, alcohol-whetted, expensive, exclusive evening. How do we keep score? It’s unofficial, and there’s no winner because all people feel as though they have lost. The scoring is done when people wake up hungover and check everyone’s snap story, then scroll through Instagram and Facebook. The result for most people is a bad feeling. “He had more fun than I did.” “She went to a more exclusive club.” “They had a more bottles of Veuve Clicquot!”
New Year's Eve simply epitomizes the generational problem of constantly competing and recording every fun moment we have to appear as socially important and fun as possible. Tell me, how could you have enjoyed ringing in the New Year with your eyes on your screen and your thumb holding down a little red button to capture a video and prove to all of your friends (who would, logically, be the ones around you, no?) that you were doing something awesome when the clock struck midnight?
So, in the modern United States of America, instead of celebrating our New Year based on an Ancient Roman holiday for a god most Americans do not worship, perhaps it’s time for a change. For instance, the Summer Solstice would be a nice time for everyone to start anew when the weather is nice again and when people have the motivation to make positive changes in their lives. Furthermore, it would come between academic years, which would be better for everyone in the field of academia. Whether a drastic change is instituted or not, we should nonetheless take steps to shy away from a competition-driven holiday to one centered around reachable goals and sensible new beginnings.