Monday, December 31, 2007

Last day of the year?

Exactly one year ago, I wrote a note titled New year, how does it feel?. Essentially, what I tried to do in such post is to relieve the end-of-year melancholy that affects some people during the holidays season. New year is just that final piece of the season, the one that brings all that spirit down and back to reality. As the celebration and concept of New year hasn't changed a lot throughout the years (and it probably won't ever change), I believe it is appropriate to retake some of the stuff that I originally wrote in the 'New year, how does it feel?' post and update it accordingly, for all the people who might be feeling nervous, melancholic, sad, or frustrated about this specific day.

Once again, the big change that we'll be facing after midnight today is that we'll be ending one month and starting a new one. Just like happens when we go to sleep on March 31, and the next day we wake up on April 1st. The only essential difference in the transition from December to January is that we'll change a digit of the year in our calendars, passing to 2008.

Most of the people who celebrate the transition from December to January (a. k. a. New year) is not really celebrating the transition itself. The celebrations are more oriented to the feelings linked to the perfect time to have 'new beginnings' in life. Some of the ideas that wander in people's minds during the night of December 31, and on until January 2, are mostly related to challenges to pursue during the next 12 months in the shape of personal promises: "I promise myself that I will lose some weight this year", "I promise myself that I will quit smoking by the end of this year", "I promise myself that I will study harder this year", and so on. It is indeed a time that inspires some people to do changes in their lives, although I personally don't see why should we wait until a specific date in our calendars to do such changes. New beginnings, personal promises and changes in people's lives may be made anytime throughout the year.

The reason for which sometimes people wait until the night from December 31 to January 1st is that the end of the holidays makes them more sensitive. They take a more melancholic approach when they start thinking things like: "Oh, I wish I could have done xxxx this year", "I regret not having been able to xxxxx", etc. That's when depression and sadness come in.

Technically speaking, the new year in the Gregorian calendar should only have a specific meaning in the Christian, Catholic, and all other related faiths. For people belonging to other cultures, the transition from December 31 to January 1st is just like the transition from any day in the year to another. In fact, many cultures and religions around the world are aware of the Gregorian calendar, but they rule their activities based in different calendars, for which the beginning of their years does not match the beginning January every year. Here are some examples:

  • The Jewish Calendar is ruled by the behavior of the moon. It begins the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which occurs every year sometime between the end of August and the beginning of October. The next Jewish new year will start on Tishrei 1, 5769, which in Gregorian terms will be on September 30, 2008.
  • The Muslim (Islamic) year is about 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The New year in the Muslim calendar, or Hijri calendar, is marked by the beginning of the month of Muharram. Curiously, Muslims around the world will experience two new years during 2008: The Islamic new year 1428 will happen on January 10, 2008; whereas the Islamic new year 1429 will occur on December 29, 2008.
  • The Chinese also observe an own calendar, different from the Gregorian. The beginning of the Chinese new year is typically marked by the second new moon after the winter solstice (although there may be some exceptions to this rule), usually sometime between January 21 and February 20. Each of the years in the Chinese calendar is related to an animal of the Chinese zodiac. The beginning of the Chinese year 4705, year of the rat, will happen on the midnight of February 7 to February 8, 2008.
  • In Ethiopia, a different calendar is also observed. Although it is linked to the Coptic calendar and it's also related to the Christian and Catholic faiths, it differs from the Gregorian calendar in terms of its beginning and the counting of the years. The Ethiopian calendar begins the first day of the month of Maskaram. The next Ethiopian new year, which will be 2001 according to their tradition, will happen on September 11, 2008.
Finally, I want to end this note exactly with the same words I used for my note last year:

"There's no reason to feel melancholic or nervous about the year that is ending, and the one that is just about to begin. The way I see it, the new year celebration gives people a good excuse to share and spend times with the family and friends, and it constitutes a good engine that keeps economies moving. So enjoy wisely the day, and happy new year!".


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