Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Life

Why I Absolutely, Totally Dread New Year’s

There’s a particular sort of dread that accompanies a holiday you don’t enjoy. Every year it looms on the calendar, slowly but steadily coming closer, while you try to ignore it. Every year the pressure builds and arrangements must be made — or you risk being plan-less on that most momentous of nights.

You guess it: I’m talking about New Year’s Eve.

I’ve hated it since I was old enough to stay up until midnight watching on TV as people crowded into Times Square. Still, I went along with it; what choice did I have? I made lists of resolutions that I never followed. I worried about what to wear to parties. I stayed up and watched the ball drop on TV, even when I lived within a quick subway ride of Times Square. (I even went to Times Square once, but I was 18, if that counts as an excuse.)

Then one year it hit me. The fact that this day felt meaningless — that nothing ever seemed any different on January 1 than it had on December 31; that Champagne is one of the few alcoholic beverages I can’t stand; that I’m irrationally angered by year-end best-of lists — it all made sense. It was simply that January is not the start of my year.

I have nothing against the Gregorian calendar. It’s a useful tool for not showing up to everything on the wrong day; it just doesn’t put the start of the year where it should be, in the fall.

To me, Rosh Hashanah always held a sense of newness and potential so unlike that arbitrary day in the dead of winter. It had nothing to do with carbonated white wine or kissing strangers or tourists packed between police barricades watching as something glittery is lowered down a pole. I didn’t have to do this, I realized suddenly. There was no need to mark the start of the year twice.

I was in Israel on that first New Year-free December. There, the holiday is observed — sort of — as Sylvester, the European name for the day that refers to an anti-Semitic 4th century Pope. Not that the history enters into it; the night is simply a very optional opportunity to party. It’s a bit like Cinco De Mayo in America, a fun foreign import and a reason to go out if you’re looking for one, but not something you’re pressured into preparing for weeks in advance.

That year in Israel, I went to bed at 10:00pm on December 31. The next day, I did not regret missing whatever had happened the night before. On the contrary, I thought it was probably the best New Year’s Eve I had ever spent. Sure, some people might find that pathetic, but was it more pathetic than all the stuff I did before — the pretending and stressing out over nothing? No, going to bed at 10:00pm is infinitely less uncool than any of that.

Like switching my stove-top kettle for an electric one and being wary of public buildings with insufficient security, not caring about the Western world’s New Year was one of the many practices I brought back with me from Israel years ago and have stuck to ever since.

This year, I will once again do nothing special. I will act as if no one around me considers the last day in December a big deal. I expect that, like each year I’ve ignored the day, I’ll be much happier for it. Except that I still haven’t found a way to completely escape those best-of lists.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.