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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

by Rose Madeline Mula

 

In Babylonia four thousand years ago, the New Year celebration lasted eleven days. Can you imagine ten consecutive New Year’s Eves? One is bad enough.

When I was young, I hated New Year’s — the whole shebang, beginning with New Year’s Eve. The forced gaiety. The pressure to be happy! It was all so depressing.

The worst part was that if I didn’t have a date for New Year’s Eve, it cast a pall on the next twelve months. One year, to avoid the social ignominy of being dateless on the Big Night, a girl friend and I fled to Manhattan to mingle with the throngs in Times Square so no one could tell that we were unescorted. No one, that is, except a couple of sleazy characters who latched onto us and tried to entice us back to their pad to “start the new year off with a bang.” Did we really look that desperate? When we adamantly refused, a drunk who had been eavesdropping berated us for “spoiling the boys’ new year.” Give me a break! That was even more disheartening than being home with the old folks watching Guy Lombardo on TV.

Now that I’m an “old folk,” I miss Guy Lombardo; and I don’t hate New Year’s Eve any more because I no longer feel pressured to party. Instead, I can go to bed early and sleep through the countdown. It’s wonderful!

But when I wake up, it’s New Year’s Day, which is even worse, because I feel compelled to make those cursed resolutions that I know are doomed to failure. If I didn’t lose those stubborn ten pounds last year, why will turning a page on the calendar help me shed them this year? (Could you hand me that last brownie, please? And don’t be stingy with the ice cream.)

And why would I think that taking a new pledge to hike three miles a day is going to work when it never did before? It’s too cold to go out and walk anyway. It’s January in New England, for heaven’s sake! I’ll start in April when it warms up a bit. Or maybe not. What would be the point? I would have already blown three months.

On the bright side, I have stuck to at least one of my last year’s resolutions: I’ve stopped wasting time playing computer Free Cell solitaire. Instead, however, I’m now addicted to Spider solitaire. Whenever I sit down at the computer to work, that insidious game draws me into its web and traps me there for at least an hour. I’d resolve to give it up, but I’m afraid something even more obsessive will replace it.

At least I’m not smoking. But then I never smoked. So I suppose that can’t be counted as a victory.

Since resolutions do often backfire and sabotage us, why do we still make them? Because we’re slaves to a tradition that started way back in 153 B.C. when the Romans placed their god Janus at the head of the calendar. Janus was two-faced (no, not like the smiling back-stabber you worked with ten years ago). Janus literally had two faces — one on the back of his head reviewing the old year and its disappointments, and the other on the front looking toward the incoming year with its potential for positive change.

I really must get serious about making some positive changes myself; and even though intellectually I know that New Year’s resolutions usually don’t work, I can’t be the only person on the planet who won’t make a few. So this coming year I resolve to re-read all of Shakespeare’s works — and not just the Cliff Notes this time; to practice the piano — and not just “Chopsticks” and “Heart & Soul”; to learn Italian — and not just the entrees on the Olive Garden menu.

Actually, I’m tempted to forget the self-improvement vows and make some resolutions that would be fun to keep. Like eat more chocolate…do less housework… spend more money….watch more frivolous TV shows…cut back on exercise…sleep ‘til noon…But if I did, I’m sure those resolutions would “take”; and I’d hate myself by mid-January.

However, while researching resolutions around the world I did find one associated with my Sicilian ancestry that would be fun to keep and shouldn’t do too much damage: Eat lasagna on New Year’s Day to insure good fortune for the coming year. I much prefer that to the Austrian belief that good luck will flow to those who dine on suckling pig on New Year’s day — a practice that certainly isn’t very lucky for the pig. The lasagna idea is much more appealing. Since an entire roasted cow isn’t the centerpiece on the table, I don’t have to face the fact that the hamburger in the sauce was once an animal possibly named Elsie. Actually, there’s no need to sacrifice Elsie ... I make a scrumptious meat-free marinara sauce.

This makes the Sicilian tradition even more appealing — so much so that I may even adopt the ancient Babylonian custom of celebrating New Year’s. Then I could enjoy lasagna for eleven days.

On second thought, an eleven-day New Year’s holiday would mean ten New Year’s Eves to get through.

There isn’t enough lasagna in all of Italy to make that worthwhile.


Rose's new book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun, published by Pelican Publishing, is available in bookstores, on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble Com, and toll free from Pelican at 1-800-843-1724. The book was a finalist in USABOOKNEWS.COM's 2006 Best Books Award humor category.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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