What a difference a week makes; book-ended as it was by songs that evoke emotions so heavy they don’t bear hearing more than once in a year. O Holy Night cracks its whip on the heart, startling it to bolt upright and take off around the track of emotion. Past memories, some magical, others painful; disturbing the earth surrounding dormant feelings as it gallops onward through the bend of hopeful anticipation before hitting the straight. Then chasing Now along the final furlong to cross the line in a perfect photo-finish. A week later Auld Lang Syne will not be able resist pulling at the stray thread dangling from the soul; it won’t be satisfied until it unravels it completely before abandoning it in an untidy heap for its owner to disentangle and roll back up.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved the Eve of Christmas and loathed that of New Year with equal measure. Nothing new or unique in that, says you. This doesn’t go unnoticed. All the New Year greetings are filed long before the credits roll on the spent one. Few, it seems, are alone in longing to keep the head down and let it wash over them. Possibly in a similar haze of miniature snack denial that sees the desperate diner through a sustained period with their considered size. Honey, you shrunk the hot dogs. It’s OK, Dear, there’s another 45 of them in the oven. The relief in the room is palpable.
Under pressure to respond, I get most of my replies texted by 10pm. It used to be that no-one could be arsed going out on New Year’s Eve anymore. In recent years, I mistook the flurry of early evening messages for a preventative measure against an echo of Millennium hysteria that caused ordinarily laid-back folk to fear telecommunication failure at midnight. Now I know it’s a cure against other people phoning them to detonate the ring tone equivalent of Auld Lang Syne, and the risk of letting the wrong person in.
Unlike Christmas Eve, with its camaraderie, the promise of impending bonhomie and threat of reciprocated love among one’s own tribe, NYE sits in judgement in the confessional box of life, waiting for you to enter alone to square up to yourself. Bless me New Year’s Eve, for I have sinned. It has been one year since my last confession and here are my sins…
Like the death-knell signalling the near-end of school holidays, you know the party is coming to an end. The determination to ring the best out of the remaining days is your two fingered salute to the army of Mondays advancing.
I phone the one friend I can speak to on a night like this. Throwing scorn on the notion of resolution, we resolve to go gentler on ourselves and to meet soon. I ask her what she’s doing. She is loath to write a list but is in the middle of compiling two: one with the things from the past year she wishes to let go; the other with wishes for the coming year. Both will go up in flames in her tiny hearth in the hope that the former will be extinguished, and the latter just put out there. To the universe. She read about it somewhere. I hope the right list attaches itself to the stars, I say. She forgives my outburst of cheese and we say our goodbyes.
An hour later, safely ensconced in our mini-snack stupor, we risk crossing the threshold of midnight with a quick flick to Jools striking up the band. Ten..nine..eight..
Like the classic seasonal ending to a dodgy soap where the credits roll over the scene, my mind’s eye involuntarily pans those chief characters of my life in tonight’s episode. I see my mate with her knees tucked under her chin watching the flames go up; my parents dragging their grandchildren to their feet; my brother waiting to pick up a fare; my State-side friend with a few hours to go; another kicking back in the sun by way of good riddance; and even the odd blogger whose faces I wouldn’t recognise but who I’ve become immensely fond of nonetheless. The powerful round-ups of their year reverberate.
Then the morning comes. Just like that the storm is over. Souls are re-wound with hopeful determination into slightly different shapes than before. And a new year of fleeting speckled pieces of happiness beckons. We’ll do alright.