I’ve never really understood the whole New Year’s Eve thing. Dressing up, spending too much money, drinking too much champagne staying out too late, just to wake up the next morning, feeling dreadful and realizing that the only significant change is in the calendar. For most of us, there is a day of rest and then back to work or school. Same job, same class, same routine. There is still snow on the ground, the days are too short and the nights are very long. Some of us no longer bother with resolutions. Those of us who do are lucky to keep them until February. But who can be expected to make a major life overhaul when the day-to-day minutia remains the same?
We have been going about it all wrong. It is not the 31st of December that requires celebration and reflection, but the 1st of September, or whatever date happens to precede Labour Day. Regardless of the date of the Autumnal Equinox, summer will be over when the clock strikes on Monday, September 3rd. We say good-bye to early morning swims at the cottage, leisurely coffees with the paper on the back deck and daily visits to the park. The night gets cooler, longer and it is darker in the morning. Children’s bathing suits are suddenly too small and shoes no longer fit.
This is when we truly start fresh, when things change, when new challenges await us. There is a clear ending and discernible beginning. Marketers know this and publish 16 month calendars. Even people who haven’t had the summer off dread the onset of Labour Day. Casual summer dress, half-day Fridays, long weekends, a cavalier attitude toward life—these fall behind us on Tuesday.
We have all been conditioned that way. It started in school. Each September heralded a new grade, new teacher, new classmates: an annual fresh academic start. ‘This year I will do my homework, study for tests and not talk during class.’ Parents signed us up for new activities. We moved from Brownies to Girl Guides, Cubs to Scouts, Pee Wee to Bantam, Aqua Quest Red to Blue. We worried about our first day of public school, junior high, high school, college, university or work. No other clothes all year seemed as special as the back to school outfits we shopped for with our moms. Not even Christmas, Hanukah or birthdays yield the loot that can be acquired in the name of school: book bags, lunch bags, pencil cases, binders, paper, pencil crayons, scented markers; the list is endless. I have friends who miss the ritual so much, they still take advantage of the back to school rush to stock up on stationary and new clothes for work.
It is in this significant time of change that resolutions can be made and kept. Calendars are bought to keep homes more organized. Chores are re-divided, allowance renegotiated. Designing a realistic budget is much more practical when post-holiday bills are not looming. Sports clubs offer membership incentives. Neglected houses revive with the return of absent families. Children, home from camps and cottages, run around neighbourhoods, eager to reconnect with friends and see what has changed over the summer. Parents not only register their children for programs, but enroll in classes themselves: yoga, pilates, cooking courses, financial planning. Book clubs resume. Schedules for adult hockey leagues are posted on refrigerator doors. Consciously or not, the Fall resolutions we have made are inherent in these activities.
It is this transition of the calendar which requires celebration. An occasion to give thanks for the relaxation and respite of the summer. The term, Labour Day is apt. It is the celebration of workers at a time when the gentle pace of summer gives way to the demands of increased effort and productivity expected the rest of the year. This passage requires the pomp and circumstance of New Year’s. Labour’s Eve should be the night of excess and expectation.
No matter our age, occupation, family status, or situation in life, the beginning of September marks change for all of us. So this weekend, plan a party, make your resolutions, crack open your champagne, and count down the true start of a new year.
(1st printed in the Muskoka Sun, 2001, but written by me)