New Year's is something of an anticlimactic holiday. When you are a kid, it seems mysterious and alluring: Something enigmatic and enticing that only the adults can partake in after you go to bed. When you get a bit older, your parents allow you to stay up until midnight, which seems like a real treat at the time, since midnight is well past your normal bedtime. And, of course, when you are allowed to join the secret society of grown-ups who can celebrate the New Year. Maybe your parents even let you have a little bit of champagne to toast with when the clock finishes counting down. It tastes terrible, but you don't tell your parents that, and the whole experience almost feels like you are getting away with something, even though your parents are willing collaborators.
But in the end, the New Year's celebration is something of a let down. All it really is is staying up late and watching a ball drop on television. Even when one gets older and can join in the more adult form of celebration for the evening, it always seems like a kind of desperate attempt at merriment. There is a nod given to new beginnings with the whole concept of "New Year's resolutions", but those are so often ignored that they have become a punchline. it feels, in many ways, like the pitiful last gasp of the holiday season as everyone tries to bleed out just one more bit of revelry before the cold, gray bucket of dreariness that is the rest of winter.
In a sense, New Year's is almost an afterthought to the holiday season. Thanksgiving more or less marks the start of the annual descent into holiday insanity, even though it is in danger of being swallowed by Christmas. The "Black Friday" frenzy that follows has loomed every larger with each passing year, and begins even earlier. Christmas has become an enormous monster that consumes an every increasing number of weeks that precede it. But in the case of Thanksgiving and Christmas there are familiar traditions and patterns that define them. New Year's feels almost like forced fun, a celebration that is required rather than desired. There is no real content to the observance, even the old ritual of watching Dick Clark introduce music acts on television has given way to a soulless corporate extravaganza that feels empty and hollow. "Overrated" seems like the exact right word for it, but maybe a sad and over-hyped event is what is needed at the end of the year.
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