Why I hate New Year’s Eve

I hate New Year’s Eve.  I always, always have. Really, really hate it.  I’m only starting to figure out why, though.

It’s not for the reasons everyone assumes.  It’s not because of the whole “it’s amateur hour” thing.  Nor is it because I feel some kind of pressure to have the greatest time ever. It’s not even, now that I am an old lady and mom, because it’s so hard to find a babysitter.

No.  I have finally realized why I hate it so much.  I hate it because if you, like me, feel anxious and sad about the passage of time, well, then New Year’s Eve is just ground zero for pain.

Someone teased me recently, insisting that surely this was a new thing for me, since I’ve had kids. This is absolutely not true.  In fact, midafternoon on the 31st I missed a call from one of my oldest and dearest friends.  Her message said that she still remembered the New Year’s Eve, when we were both in college (prime raging years, no?) and we went out for dinner in Harvard Square and were in bed around 10.  She said it was one of her favorite New Year’s Eves ever.  Mine too.

I can only remember four New Year’s Eves that I stayed up until midnight.  One was in high school, with the girl who was my only true friend at boarding school.  I actually don’t know if we even made it to midnight, though we tried.  She emailed me this week reminiscing about what bad rebels we were, even then.  Two were in the post-college, pre-marriage years, both in New York.  And one was the turning to 2000.  And that year I barely made it. I remember watching about four minutes of fireworks and going straight to sleep.

I’ve always felt a heaviness on New Year’s Eve.  This heaviness, if I really think about it, is an exaggerated version of a sensation I know well: a deep sadness about time’s passage.  Since the eve of 2000, I’ve insisted on being asleep well before midnight on December 31st.  I just can’t take the rawness of the night.  The entire world is poised around the turning of time, and I can’t bear it.  Everybody else seems to be celebrating, and I can’t get away from the poignant, immediate awareness of everything that has always scared me most.

It’s a similar feeling as that that haunts birthdays for me, at least Grace, Whit’s, and mine.  Tangible, evidence of the wheeling forward of time, inescapable proof that our moments on this planet are numbered.  On the whole time’s movement seems an odd combination of quixotic and inexorable, some moments stretching endlessly and others passing with blinding speed.  On New Year’s Eve, though, we come face to face with the truth of another year wheeling around.  We confront the passage of our own lives, accept that we are a step closer to the end and away from the beginning, and this causes me nothing short of anguish.

So that’s why I hate New Year’s Eve.

19 thoughts on “Why I hate New Year’s Eve”

  1. Yet again you have made me slow down and think about something I haven’t before… I have never liked the night either, always assuming it was only that I really don’t like staying up late but now I really need to go and think…

  2. I hate it too, but I can’t articulate why (as you have done perfectly here). I’m just glad that I have a legit excuse now for being lame and going to bed before the ball drops….what, with being “older” and having two children and all.

    For the record, January isn’t exactly my favorite month either. So I’m never super enthused about heralding it in with noisemakers and champagne. 🙂

  3. I’m with you, too. I have given up trying to “get over” my thing about New Year’s Eve, and now we just have a quiet night.

    If I have to be excited about any of this, it is the next day I prefer. New beginnings and all of that.

    But really, who knows when the year starts and ends? I think that’s why I like the right here, right now way of living… much easier to deal with!

    And may I just say that you are one of the most articulate writers on this earth? You amaze me.


  4. Love this post! I find New Year’s hard for the same reason–it marks the passing of time and reminds me that, try as I may, life marches on whether I want it to or not. Glad to know of your blog and love your writing.

  5. I, too, struggle with the passage of time.

    For me, it’s more about fears of missed opportunities and regret, as well as a sense of loss and nostalgia.

    I’m in my early 40s, single and always wanted to marry a wonderful person and have kids. Every year that passes is another year that takes me away from that dream, and it’s hard.

    A dear friend of mine has shown me another way of looking at the passage of time, however.

    She said to me last spring that she absolutely loves her birthday each February, because it means she is still here, on this earth, living her life.

    And when I saw her in December, she said she knows she’s different from other mothers because she looks at her boys, ages 8 and 5, and says inside, “hurry up, grow up.”

    My friend has a different relationship to the passage of time because she has stage 4 incurable breast cancer that has spread to her liver.

    So now when I get down, I think of her and feel glad that I too am still here, living my life, as imperfect and incomplete as it sometimes feels.

    Happy 2011 to us all. We are blessed.

  6. Isn’t it interesting how, as we get older. time seems to speed up, but when we’re young it seems to be endless? Of course time is constant it’s just our perception of time that changes.
    Thanks for a great post that got me thinking!

  7. I think I love and hate New Years equally. I hate that feeling like another year is over, another year where I didn’t do all the things that I wanted to do and see. I hate that marking of time, like a stamp saying “Okay, that’s done – now who knows how many chances you have left!” But then, I love it, because I do consider this marking of time to be a passage into something new – a fresh start, a clean slate, where everything is wide open and possible.

  8. I never really cared about New Years Eve one way or another. Just another incrementing to a random number to me.

    “Tangible, evidence of the wheeling forward of time, inescapable proof that our moments on this planet are numbered.” <- I know this very well, though. I mostly think about that in the middle of the night when one of the kids have woken me up. Otherwise I can pretty much get through the day without that panic.


  9. I love New Year’s Eve, but feel the same angst about the passage of time. Feeling so finite…sometimes make life easy to embrace, other times makes it so difficult. Yet another set of dichotomies to straddle.

  10. New Year’s Eve? I could take it or leave it. For many years I tried to make it a super special evening, and it was always a complete disaster. So finally I gave up. Now we stay home and eat a rack of lamb. Always. For the first time in my entire adult life I went to bed before midnight this year. You know what? It was totally fine.

  11. I understand what you describe here, and though I can’t say that I feel it so poignantly, I don’t really feel compelled to celebrate the dawn of a New Year in any spectacular way. To me it’s just another day steeped in a symbolism that is much to vague and overstated. I’ve never been a big celebrator, and have spent many a year in bed much before midnight. I only made it to midnight this year because my husband and I were at the movies, and we didn’t even realize the clock had turned until it was too late.

    For me this feeling is much more intense in September, with the dawn of a new school year that I haven’t been a part of in more than 10 years. It still gets me deep in the gut every year.

  12. I’ve never liked NYE either. People make such a big deal out of it and it always seems to disappoint. What is the celebration for? The ending of a year or the beginning of a new one?

    I guess it’s celebrating the end of the year. I don’t like it because I think about all that I wanted to accomplish and didn’t. That makes it hard for me to look forward to another year. I just feel like at the end of that year I’ll be disappointed in myself again.

    I’m working hard right now on believing in my ability to truly live my life the way I want. Maybe when 2011 comes to a close I won’t be disappointed.

    I agree with a previous poster on living in the moment. All that worrying about the passage of time might make you miss what’s going on in the moment.

    Watching my grandson change so quickly in his first 3 months of life is a little scary. I don’t want him to grow up too fast!

    So, I say celebrate this moment. Look at your life and all it’s blessings, especially Grace and Whit, and enjoy!

  13. I can so understand your point, although it does not happen to me so much on New Year’s (I AM one of those people who stresses on that night about having fun), as it does the rest of the time…like on Christmas Day, for some reason (I posted on this a couple of posts ago) I am incredibly aware of the passing of time: How many more Christmases will I have with my Mom? My dad? Every one? I can’t even “go there”…I get so stressed and melancholic and almost panicky. The other night, for some reason, I was struck by the fact that I will be gone someday…that my time here is so temporary, as is all of ours…and I was so alarmed.I can not even think about my children or my Hubs.

  14. I don’t hate NYE, but I don’t love it either. If we have plans that materialize easily (this year it was a cousin’s wedding) then I’m game for being festive. But I don’t have any interest in elaborate planning. Most years we get together with our best friends, order pizza, put the kids down in Pack N Plays, and sip wine. And that suits me just fine!

    My greatest NYE rebellion? One year in college I was home and at a party at a friend’s house. I didn’t know many people, wasn’t having fun, and really wanted to leave. So… I left at 11:45. I figured 11:45 to 12:15 would be the window with the fewest drunk drivers on the road since most people would already be in their “ring in the new year” location. It may have been a lame decision (esp. for a 20-year-old), but it made me happy and I got home safely… 🙂

  15. Way back when,my life and future seemed to be boundless, being 20 I KNEW that I was going to live forever and never suffer anything bad. It was always going to be good and it was going to stay that way.

    Fast forward 35 years, and I am stunned how stupid I was, that last good NYE I had was over 20 years ago. I try to be in bed and sleeping by 12:00, if not I just watch a episode of Star Trek and try to ignore all the noise outside. There is a small part of me that hopes that the next year will be better, because it can’t get any worse!!!

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