I blame the dawn of the new millennium. Let's be frank: for most of us, New Year's Eve hasn't really lived up to expectations since we partied like it's 1999. There was all the anticipation of the Y2K bug that never eventuated. Remember that? We thought the world was going to implode one computer at a time. Ah, bless.
Then there was all that geographical angst about which place would be the first to see the dawn of the new era. Evidently, it was Gisborne. I was at Omaha, a beach settlement north of Auckland. We dragged our sorry bodies out of bed at some obscenely early hour and sat on the sand to watch the sunrise. There's a photograph showing six of us warmly wrapped and bleary eyed. I was just counting the minutes until we could scuttle back to bed and snooze away the rest of the morning.
The end of the year hasn't been the same since all that hype and overreaction to the new millennium. In comparison, almost any attempt we make at celebration seems try-hard and lacklustre. Other factors contributing to our New Year's Eve ennui are:
The emphasis on drinking
Don't get me wrong. I'm a Kiwi at heart. I have more than a passing acquaintance with this much maligned phenomenon which is sometimes referred to as our binge-drinking culture. That said, the moment I'm expected to embrace it, all bets are off. So on New Year's Eve, just when there is the assumption one may well get liquored up, perversely I'm inclined to do the opposite. In fact, New Year's Eve makes me want to brush my teeth, put on my Peter Alexander pyjamas and retreat to bed at 8pm with a cup of hot chocolate and Jennifer Saunders' Bonkers.
The well-meaning enquiries
From Boxing Day onwards, the question "What are you doing for New Year's?" officially takes over from the pre-Christmas catch-cry of "Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?" I truly wish I was young enough to make going to Rhythm and Vines a viable option. As it is, I have no interesting answer to that question. I imagine jim-jams and hot drinks are something of a conversation killer. So, please, don't ask what I'm doing for New Year's. Trust me: it's dull.
The unrealistic expectations
"Why do so many people hate New Year's Eve?" asks the Los Angeles Times in Dreading New Year's Eve which uncovered people who called the event "amateur night", a "forced occasion", an "overrated holiday" and "a vicious cycle of unhappiness". As one expert said, "you've got Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, eight days of Hanukkah, a month of Ramadan. For New Year's you have that one evening and that's it". It suggests that compressing high expectations into one tight timeframe is a recipe for disappointment. I'll drink to that.
The kissing of strangers
For some unfathomable reason, the notion of stranger danger seems to evaporate at about midnight on New Year's Eve when kissing random people becomes acceptable. If a stranger puts his (or her) tongue down your throat tonight you may wish to consider the article entitled Kissing can endanger health due to contagious germs and viruses. Evidently, "just one kiss ... can share more than 500 different types of disease-carrying germs and viruses".
The supposed stigma of being alone
A lot of people spend New Year's Eve alone yet the hype that is repeatedly sold to us is that we ought to be partying with hordes of people. The fact that many of us are in our pyjamas before sunset is seldom mentioned. Reasons to Stay Home Alone on New Year's Eve was written by someone who has realised that "the start of a new year is more a time for reflection rather than going out, downing shots, being sick on my favourite shoes ..." What we're trying to say is: there's nothing wrong with quietly seeing in the new year alone. Just think of the germs you'll avoid.
The predictable media coverage
I'm not normally known for my fortune-telling skills but let me give it a shot. Tomorrow there will be news reports covering revellers at Times Square, fireworks on Sydney harbour and the countdown to midnight as it unfolded in London. But if we know it's going to happen does it still fit the definition of news? Surely it would be more newsworthy if for some reason there weren't fireworks or countdowns at New Year. Oh, and the television coverage will also include one young partying New Zealander swaying, speaking unintelligibly and making his (or her) parents (or caregivers) very proud.
What's your approach to New Year's Eve celebrations? Do you embrace or avoid them?