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Whose bright idea was it to begin the New Year in the bleak month of January? Somehow we all became convinced that the darkest and coldest time of the year was a great time to schedule huge parties with lots of silly, annoying noise makers, ear-splitting music, wild dancing and – of course - abundant quantities of adult beverages?
So, then what?
You don’t have to be too clever to know that the next day, if you’re not residing at the county pokey, you still have the rest of January to contend with. When all the dust (what dust there is in January) settles you have nothing to look forward to but a bare minimum of 100 days of drab, dreary northern New England weather. And that’s in a good year when there’s nothing particularly troubling going on.
Tell you the truth I never thought much of having the New Year start with January. Of the 12 they had to choose from, how January got the nod to be first among all the months is beyond my poor powers of comprehension.
Isn’t January named after that two-faced Roman guy – Janus – who didn’t know whether he was coming or going? I think it is. To be honest for a moment I’m not too sure where I’m heading at this time of year, either, but then I don’t have a month named after me. Come to think of it I’m not sure I’d like a month named after me.
Years ago when Mother and I were younger we’d do like everyone else and plan something exciting on New Year’s Eve. But it didn’t take us too long to see that a lot of those New Year’s events go on and on well after 10 o’clock; there’s just no need for that kind of foolishness.
They say way back in Roman times March was designated the first month of the year. Here in Maine, March isn’t that much better than January, if you ask me; except that March is closer to the end of winter than the beginning.
Fact is March was deemed to be so useless a month that it was designated here in Maine as town meeting month. How useless is that?
Portland once tried to make a big deal out of the New Year by having something called New Year’s Portland. They formed a committee which started right off collecting lots of money from generous, easily swayed businesses and then this committee went out and hired all kinds of musicians and storytellers and ice sculptors and tap dancers and arranged to have them perform at venues throughout the downtown Portland area. It became so popular that smaller towns picked up on the idea and there were New Year celebrations up and down the state.
Things went well for a while. But then there were a few pretty bad New Year’s Eve storms and before long sponsors got cold feet, so to speak, and when the money dried up the music stopped and the partying quickly ended. Funny how that happens.
I once read somewhere that back in the Middle Ages when our civilization was right in the middle of things you might say, they designated various Christian feast dates as New Year’s Day. At one point Dec. 25 served not only as Christmas but also New Year.
Wouldn’t that be something? A day that combined Christmas AND New Year! I might stay up past 11 o’clock for a day like that.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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