Why do we celebrate New Year?

Useful Vocabulary

  • significant – важный
  • profoundly meaningful – глубоко значимый
  • unsettlingly unknowable – тревожно и непостижимо
  • tick of the clock – тиканье часов
  • something intrinsic in the human being – что-то присущее человеку
  • to step outside the day-to-day activity – выйти за рамки повседневной деятельности
  • to invest energy in  -вкладывать энергию в
  • to make it through another year – пережить еще один год
  • to raise the glasses – поднять бокалы
  • to toast  – пить за что-либо
  • to have control over what lies ahead – контролировать будущее
  • to resolve to diet and exercise – прибегать к диетам и физическим упражнениям
  •  to quit smoking – бросить курить
  • to start saving – начать копить деньги
  • to treat people better – обращаться с людьми лучше
  • to pay off debts – закрыть долги
  • to return borrowed things – вернуть занятые, одолженные вещи
  • to say goodbye to the problems – сказать пока проблемам
  • to consider our weaknesses – рассмотреть свои слабости
  • to reduce the vulnerabilities – сократить уязвимости
  • save for – за исключением
  • in the coming year – в наступающем году

Why do we celebrate new year?

Why do we celebrate New Year?

On January 1, 2019, the day will change from Tuesday to Wednesday – not a significant transition anyway. But somehow we’ve decided that this change, which will end one year and begin the next, is different. This unique tick of the clock has always made us both celebrate and step outside the day-to-day activity we’re always busy with to reflect, look back, assess how we did, and resolve to do better. Save perhaps for our birthdays, no other moment in our year gets this sort of attention.


Why is the celebration so common around the world, as it has been for at least as long as there have been calendars? It must surely be connected with something intrinsic in the human being, something profoundly meaningful and important because we invest a lot of energy in the celebration and also in a fresh set of resolutions, even though we mostly fail to keep them. 


The celebration part is obvious. As our birthdays do, New Year’s Day provides us the chance to celebrate having made it through another 365 days, the unit of time by which we keep chronological score of our lives. Time to raise our glasses and toast our survival.


But what about those resolutions? Aren’t they about survival, too — living healthier, better, longer? New Year’s resolutions are examples of the universal human desire to have some control over what lies ahead, because the future is unsettlingly unknowable. We resolve to diet and exercise, to quit smoking, and to start saving.  Committing to them, at least for a moment, gives us a feeling of more control over the uncertain days to come.


A 2007 study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman found that of 3,000 people followed for a year, 88% failed to achieve the goals of their resolutions, although 52% had been confident they would when they made them. 


Interestingly, New Years resolutions also commonly include things like treating people better, making new friends, and paying off debts. It’s been so throughout history. The Babylonians would return borrowed things. Jews seek, and offer, forgiveness. The Scots go “first footing,” visiting neighbors to wish them well. How does all this connect to survival? Simple: We are social animals. We depend on others, literally, for our health and safety. Treating people well is a good way to be treated well. 


There are hundreds of good-luck rituals related to New Year celebrations. The Dutch, for whom the circle is a symbol of success, eat donuts. Greeks bake special Vassilopitta cake with a coin inside, to welcome good luck in the coming year on whoever finds it in his or her slice. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve started in China millennia ago as a way to get rid of evil spirits. The Japanese hold New Year’s Bonenkai, or “forget-the-year parties,” to say goodbye to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a better new one. Disagreements and misunderstandings between people are supposed to be resolved, and grudges set aside. In a New Year’s ritual for many cultures, houses are cleaned to get the bad vibes away and make room for better ones.


It’s fascinating, really, to see how common so much of this is: Fireworks. Good-luck rituals. Resolutions to give us the pretense of control over the future. Everywhere, New Year’s is a moment to consider our weaknesses and how we might reduce the vulnerabilities. Pass the donuts, the Vassilopitta and the grapes, light the fireworks, and raise a glass to toast: “To survival!”