Hate the pressure of New Year’s Eve? This writer does too, which is why you’ll find her sitting out the celebrations in favour of some self-care.
I don’t like New Year’s Eve.
There, I’ve admitted it, and writing down these few words seems confessional in a society hellbent on going to the best party. The pressure to have a good time on the last day of the year is parallel to having the perfect family on Christmas Day, driven by our fear of missing out. But this year I’m happy to do things my way.
Here’s why: come 31 December, I can feel time slipping through my fingers like sand. And I find it all too disconcerting.
Time is the Houdini of the metaphysical world; it escapes through the backdoor of our lives, although we never really felt it enter. We never really measure time because, if we did, we wouldn’t all be so guilty of wasting it.
Never is this more apparent than on New Year’s Eve, when time is weighed-up and looked back upon. It’s laid open in front of us like a badly organised picnic; all the idiosyncrasies of the year in full view. And all this measuring and weighing of life in one day frightens me. Why do we insist upon playing out our whole year, all in one night?
The year end seems, to me, to signify a mass orgy of hopes, dreams and endings. Yet modern life inevitably goes on the next morning.
And for some this is too much to bear. A 2017 University of Manchester study showed a 40% increase of suicide risk on New Year’s Day, across the general population. Researchers concluded that this may be due to the fact that the day represents “the point of transition between one time period and another”.
As we get older, the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol visit us: Past, Present and Future. They linger around ushering us into the new year.
It makes sense that as we gain more experience in life, we should all be visited by variations of who we are and who we once were. I’d be OK if this feeling of time running away was just self-reflective. But New Year’s Eve comes with its own sense of urgency; the impatience of wanting things to end coupled with the impatience of wanting things to begin.
I never feel the pin-prick of time so sharply as I do on 31 December. And through the years I have discovered I am not the only one. I admitted these feelings at a neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party a few years ago, where I stood in the kitchen with the host. “I don’t actually like New Year’s Eve,” I said. “Neither do I,” she whispered, before topping up my drink. I’ve found a great many people, usually lurking in the kitchen at said parties, that feel the same. And yet, come midnight, we so readily clink our glasses to the unknown.
American philosopher William James summed up this feeling when he said: “No fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to live on a chance.”
It’s taken me a long time to publicly admit that I don’t like New Year’s Eve because of my fear of time fleeting. Some may feel it’s a somewhat pessimistic attitude; I feel it’s more realistic. Perhaps I am staring into the abyss when really I should give the year end no more than a glance, but our lives are run by clocks and being busy.
Now that I no longer pretend to enjoy the party, I’m happy not to participate. I have found something that works for me on New Year’s Eve: I stay at home in my pyjamas and watch TV while drinking Bailey’s. I’d rather go into the new year hangover-free, with my eyes wide open and a sense of clarity in my mind.
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