New Year is the oddest of holidays. It’s not entirely clear what is being celebrated. Christmas and Easter are overtly religious holidays (or, if you prefer, a great time to collect gifts.)
Other holidays, like Canada Day or the Fourth of July, commemorate events of great national and historical significance. Other holidays, like the nameless Civic Holiday which Canadians celebrate in August, may not purport celebrate anything in particular (except the lack of holidays in August), but such faceless holidays don’t carry a heavy weight of historical ritual. You can do whatever you please on such a day. They aren’t rich in traditions, like the singing of Auld Lang Syne or kissing in Times Square, as on New Year’s Eve. The New Year is a holiday that demands to be celebrated according to custom, just as Christmas or Easter, but the thing at the centre of the custom remains obscure.
Explanations of the holiday that focus on death and renewal don’t adequately explain it. Other holidays, like Easter or Thanksgiving, are much more overtly about death and renewal. New Year is the orphan holiday, a great celebration without a great meaning.
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