The new year in focus – smiling into 2015

The end of the calendar year is a curious thing. It might not be very Jewish to celebrate New Year’s Eve (NYE), but it’s quite hard not to notice it. Franky, I feel a compulsion to mark the changes in our measurement of time –  from one year to next – because as long as we use the Gregorian Calendar, New Year’s Eve has temporal resonance for Jews as much as anyone else.

Of course, marking the event this year has been made more complicated as year New  Year’s Day 2015 coincides with Asarat B’Tevet. But those for whom this would be an issue (ie those who celebrate NYE with vigour AND who fast on Asarat B’Tevet) are likely to be few. I’m not overly concerned.

When I was younger I threw myself into the annual celebration with enthusiasm, but experience has informed me that the quest to capture that much anticipated magical moment of time in the midst of a whole lot of other people who are seeking exactly the same thing means that there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. I’m not saying those moments didn’t happen – they did, once or twice – but after a while I realised that the moment I was most likely to experience was anti-climax.  And that’s ok for a while and then you realise you’re better off staying home.

And so we did; this year, as for many years, we marked the event at home. We persuaded some friends to brave the five minute walk to our house to join us in the last half hour of the year to share a bottle of Tishbi red wine, the burst of revelry somewhere in neighbouring streets alerting us when the clock ticked over. It was a moment without expectation and it was genuinely pleasant.

While many people within the Jewish world may feel an awkwardness in relation to NYE, I am in favour of any event that makes us stop and think about our lives from a perspective that is not just daily (or hourly). The measurement of time gives us a framework by which to view of our existence from a distance. Like Rosh Hashanah, the secular year beginning offers an opportunity to contemplate what we have done over the previous 12 months. Unlike Rosh Hashanah, the introspection of NYE is less concerned with measuring how we have conducted ourselves and is more focused on glancing back at how the plot of our lives unfolded – and our hopes regarding what the next turn in the narrative my take.

On a personal level, 2014 was a challenging year which ended with kindness, providing me with a quiet sense of optimism about 2015.  I hope it will be the year in which Shosha Pearl unleashes her wings and begins to fly.

May 2015 be a year of good storytelling, but more importantly, may it be one of chesed, ahava and shalom (kindness, love and peace) for all.