Of the many mythical creatures of old well suited to explain the meaning of New Years, it is the magical pedigree of the Phoenix that does it best. In Greek mythology, this legendary bird in association with the Sun, is the symbol of renewal. By casting itself into a fiery combustion, the bird dies and is reborn from its own ashes. To many around the world, The New Year’s Celebration is the time for personal rebirth by looking into one’s future while reflecting on the notes of the past. It is this hope in the hearts of many that curate goals and aims in the minds of those who celebrate it.
They call it the New Year’s Resolution, which literally stands for the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter. January 1st has long been the day for such celebratory events, marking the beginning of the new calendar year for most Americans. Historically, January 1 represents the first day of the modern Gregorian calendar (the most widely used calendar). In 1582 at the request of Pope Gregory XIII, it became the most common calendar. Only after this declaration did the majority of the western Hemisphere adopt this as the norm. However, many nations and cultures follow a different set of norms.
In South African and Lesotho, the people there celebrate Selemo sa Basotho on the first of August because that marks the end of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. In East Asia, the Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar. This is an even more flexible date because that calendar always is changing, usually falling somewhere between January 20 and February 20. And in Israel and other parts of the world, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Much like the Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah is not a concrete date to remember, it usually falls between September and October.
What everyone seems to have in common when it comes to their specific New Year’s celebration is celebrating. Food, community, prayer, excitement are all shared themes throughout the different cultures. However, each is unique in its celebratory make up.
In a specific observation, the black church has been the traditional place to gather on the eve of the New Year. The congregation meets the evening of December 31 – spouses, children, relatives and friends. There is food, not to mention an enormous amount of singing, hand clapping and a sermon delivered by the head of the church.
There are many others ways to celebrate. Local bars and clubs stay open much later than usual. Individuals fill the streets dressed in sparkling gear with props, horns and anything else that makes loud noise. In a less tasteful means of noise, some folk feel it a necessity to brandish weapons. Firing bullets into the night sky, an unorthodox normalcy dangerous to everyone not indoors.
For others, it is best to spend the New Year in the comfort of their own home or apartment. The thrill of being outdoors can come as needless and daunting. An invitation to a few close friends under a roof, with a tune of Beyoncé’s “Halo” in the background and a couple plates of food met with an occasional game of Uno and laughter is as equally stimulating. And then the countdown always begins when you least expect it.
From 10 to one, anyone who has ever experienced the descent knows the feeling. It is both the longest period during the year and the shortest. And then once it’s over, so is that year. All the unfortunate events in the previous 12 months can go astray – a bitter ex, a failed class, an unhealthy addiction, an old you – all can be left behind mentally, as the door opens for that new relationship, or a new career, new environment, new hobbies and a new you.
From that final number, numero uno, everyone is granted the opportunity of evolution. Finding out what was unlikable about their circumstances just a few seconds ago and making the adult decision to step away from that chapter of their life and into one that brings joy to their existence. The symbolism of the Phoenix is not by spontaneous generation, it is a self-generated challenge one must be willing to accept for themselves by themselves.
By pursuing the will to alter the conditions of their being, ignited by a fear of remaining stagnant or worst, regressed, people change. Life is all about the choices we make. For those who partake in the holiday, the New Year and the resolution are a chance at repentance. No matter how bad things have been there is always hope for a better tomorrow. As the legendary bird reminds us: even when things go wrong as they sometimes will, when we feel at our most vulnerable, or want to explode, or have imploded, crashed and burned ourselves out, we can always rise like the Phoenix, from our own ashes.