People who are prone to listening to my rants and rambles will soon notice that I'm quite particular about which holidays and celebrations I will endorse and practice. I feel the need to investigate the history, etymology, and social and political implications of the recognition and practice of a holiday, and make an informed choice as to whether that is a tradition that I want to uphold in my life. So what about New Year's Day?
The basic idea of celebrating a new year, as defined by the revolution of our planet around the sun, is a perfectly understandable thing for humans to want to do. Exactly which point at which to define one year as ended and a new one begun is something we can all disagree on for ourselves. There have been many different systems of reckoning the passing of time and the seasons used throughout different periods of history, by different cultures. They are all valid from the perspective of their culture, but still, we can see that it's really very useful to have one system that we can all use all over the world, simply for the purposes of basic communication. The forces of political power and history have created a modern, global society which uses the Gregorian calendar. It's not the one that I would have voted for if I'd been there, or if there'd been a vote. But it's what we have, and it's just too fundamental to the functioning of society to live outside of its constructs.
The calendar and our system of naming dates is something I use a lot in my life. I couldn't function properly in this society without it. Like most literate, socially active people, I find myself writing, typing and thinking about dates a lot. I do, indeed, have a mental construct of time based on the calendar, although I recognise that other systems of reckoning time may be valid. Yes, the calendar is a fact of life, whether I like it or not - and so, of course, the best thing to do in such situations is find something to like about it. The best thing about dates, for me, is simply that they are numbers.
I love numbers. I've always had an affinity with numbers and mathematics. I loved maths classes so much in school. I would take my seat at the start of the class, put down my head, take up my pen, and... whoosh. Quite suddenly I would enter a trance state and lose all sense of time. The sound of the bell ringing to mark the end of class time woke me up, and I would see that I had filled several pages of paper with neat lines of strings of numbers and mathematical symbols. And I loved those pages, I even loved just looking though them afterwards. My god, I loved numbers. I felt that maths was a language, a language that I could understand better than human interactions, and that could understand me, a pure language that was beyond all the inconsistencies of life. I remember walking through the school grounds between classes, wondering - where did numbers come from? It was clear to me that people hadn't just made numbers up. Numbers clearly have a reality unto themselves independent of humans. If people had never existed, whatever form the world could have taken, there would have been numbers. They might not be called by the same names, or symbolised in the same ways, but the reality of a quantitive system is immutable.
Numbers and maths were the only things in the world that were not artificial, man-made. I saw that maths was the language of God, that my pages of equations were the story of the unfolding of creation itself. I even wondered whether or not perhaps humans had come about simply because the numbers desired a vehicle through which to express themselves.
This was the sort of stuff that was occupying my mind through most of my early teens. In retrospect, no wonder I didn't have any friends.
So for me, the New Year is mostly about new numbers. We reset the calendar clock and start counting from 1 again. We get to write a new number in the year space when writing the date. The New Year is when I get a new diary. And that is such a treat!
That might have been my second favourite thing about school, after the maths - the stationery. Getting a new diary at the start of each year... well, okay, I know it's ultimately arbitrary and meaningless, but it's so exciting. Or maybe it's just me...
The last few years I've bought a new appointment book/diary each year, a few days after New Year when everything is marked down. It's one of the few things that I was still buying new each year rather than using something second-hand, and I thought I could push the Buy Nothing New envelope just a little further this time. I found this adorable duo, just my vintage, in the op shop.
The pages don't have dates marked on them, so you can use it any year and fill in the dates to the appropriate days yourself. The little 19 in the corner where you're supposed to write in the year makes me smile. I used to wonder, when I was a kid, what would happen to all those documents marked with a permanent 19 when the millenium kicked over. Now I know. They still exist, and they look old-fashioned. That's about it.
An extra special bonus feature is the gilt-edged pages that sparkle like glitter as you flick through the pages. Like I said, adorable.
And yes, I really do need an address book. I had drifted over to digital in the last several years, but a recent experience with my phone going for a swim in a handbag full of juice was a sharp reminder of the falliability of the digital information age. If I were going to have a New Year's Resolution, I think it would have to be to write down phone numbers again, like we did in the old days. And of course, I do so love things that are numbers.
So, the best way for a numbers geek to celebrate the New Year - by watching the countdown. Any countdown will do, as long as I get to see the numbers ticking over.
I do have a fondness for the number 13. So here's to the New Year!