By Henrylito D. Tacio
“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.”—Rainer Maria Rilke
It’s over for 2019. Here comes 2020. It’s that time of the year when the world celebrates the coming of a new year. In cultures that traditionally or currently use calendars other than the Gregorian, New Year’s Day is often also an important celebration.
In most European countries, the New Year is greeted with private fireworks. In London, for instance, thousands gather along the Embankment on the River Thames to watch the fireworks around the London Eye.
In the United States, most people traditionally spend together with their loved one in welcoming the new year. But in New York City, the 5,386-kilogram, 3.7-meter Times Square Ball located high above One Times Square is lowered starting at 11:59 pm, with a countdown from sixty seconds until one second, when it reaches the bottom of its tower.
Filipinos celebrates New Year’s Day as part of Christmas celebration. In Davao City, noise is made on New Year’s Eve with horns (among other methods) to dispel evil spirits and to prevent them from bringing bad luck to the coming new year. In other areas, Filipinos welcome it with firecrackers.
Generally, New Year means doing New Year resolutions. “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written,” wrote Melody Beattie in The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency. “We can help write the story by setting goals.”
That’s good. But the problem is, can the person doing the resolutions follow it to the dot or will be broken in the coming months so he or she can make another list the following year?
Willi Hoffsuemmer likens New Year resolution to that of an egg. He shares this story: A poor lady found an egg, called her three children together, and told them, “Children, from now on, we’ll have nothing to worry about. See, I have found an egg and here is what we are going to do with it. We are not going to eat it, but put it under our neighbor’s hen and let it hatch out into a little chick.
“And we won’t eat that little chick either. She’ll grow up, lay eggs, and hatch them. Then, we’ll have plenty of chickens and plenty of eggs,” the mother went on. “But we won’t eat either the chickens or the eggs; we’ll sell them and buy a calf. We’ll raise the calf into a cow. Then the cow will have many calves and soon we’ll have a herd of cows. We’ll sell the cows and buy a farm, then we’ll keep on buying and selling, buying and selling…”
The lady was speaking with so much excitement that she dropped the egg onto the floor. “Many New Year resolutions are like that,” Hoffsuemmer wrote, “people dream up a lot of ideal promises but many of them never even last until January the second. They are like that broken egg.”
Talking of January, it is the first month of the year. For babies born in January, it’s all brand-new. Good Housekeeping shares this bit of information: “The tradition of celebrating ‘Baby New Year,’ or the first baby born on January 1, has its origins in ancient Greece, and was popularized in America by a series of illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post.” Some Philippine magazines copy this tradition later on.
But then, there are a lot of famous people born on January. “Smartness and productivity are among the several traits of people born in the month of January,” thefamouspeople.com states. “They are also very ambitious and diligent, the characteristics which make them highly productive at work. Although generally serious, they can also be humorous at times. But they are mostly reserved and do not talk much, unless they are required to.”
Among the famous people who celebrate their birthday in this month are: Mel Gibson, Tia Carrere, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Kenner, Kenny Loggins, Joan of Arc, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Alexander Hamilton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Dolly Parton, Dyan Cannon, Julia Ormond, and Nicolas Cage.
This author was born on January 5, the same day the following celebrities were also born: Bradley Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Suki Waterhouse, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Haya Miyazaki, Walter Mondale, Jane Wyman, George Reeves, Konrad Adenauer, Suzy Amis, Raisa Gorbachev, Juan Carlos I, and Brooklyn Sudano.
There are other famous people who shared the same birthday: Marion Davies and Pola Negri (January 3), Stephen Stills and Victoria Principal (January 4), Yvette Mimieux and Stephen Hawking (January 8), James Earl Jones and Don Zimmer (January 17), Janis Joplin and Princess Margaret (January 19), Greg Louganis and Steve Sax (January 29), Vanessa Redgrave and Boris Spassky (January 30), and Carol Channing and Normal Mailer (January 31).
Alphabet starts with a letter A and ends with Z. Actually, the letter “A” has a Phoenician origin. “The letter A in most of the alphabets has a triangular shape with the cross in the middle,” Gongoff.com explains. “Its sign has a pyramidal shape and it is linked to the mountains. Its numerical value is one. It expresses the transition from potential to actualization.”
The letter “A” has some symbolic meaning attached to it. “In Christian theology, it refers to the five wounds of Christ,” Gongoff.com says. “The letter A stands for the sound, the great mystical power and acts of magic. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, it meant the beginning, the solar heat of the day. The Greek Alpha also marks the beginning of all things.”
As stated earlier, numerical value of A is one. You don’t start with two to get to 10, you always start with one. The word one, however, comes from the Middle English words – “oon,” “oan,” and “an” – and Proto-Indo-European “oynos” (meaning single or one).
Ever heard of “the power of one”? Brad Cleveland gives us some details on this: “The phrase ‘power of one’ has frequently been used across the business world, in charitable fund raising, and in the contact center profession, including the title of a booklet authored by Penny Reynolds. However, it was first popularized by Australian author Bryce Courtenay, who used it as the title of his 1989 book about a young boy growing up in South Africa.”
But do you believe in the power of one? In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control in England. In 1649, one vote decided the execution of Charles I of England. In 1776, one vote gave the United States English instead of German as a language. In 1868, one vote saved Andrew Jackson from impeachment. In 1923, one vote made Adolf Hitler leader of the Nazi Party.
Probing deeper, new year is synonymous with “in the beginning.” This was the phrase that opens the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1). In the New Testament, the Book of John, also has the same opening: “In the beginning was the word…”
The phrase was also used as a title of books (like that novel written by Chaim Potok), in music (classical by Priscilla McLean, Robert Saxton and David Rosenboom) and songs (by Genesis from From Genesis to Revelation, Lonnie Liston Smith from Finger Lickin’ Good, Stephen Schwartz from the musical Children of Eden and The Stills from Without Feathers).
It was also used as an album by The Beatles and the Beat Brothers with Tony Sheridan. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Woody Shaw, Roy Buchanan, Hubert Laws, Isaac Hayes, and Madonna (or Pre-Madonna, a 1997 unauthorized album).
Perhaps, the statement penned by English author Neil Gaiman is apt to end this feature: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
“So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”