With the exception of the Muppet version, my Mom has never really liked “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
It makes sense. Musically, it’s the holiday equivalent of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Logistically, it strikes a little too close to home for anyone who has to keep a house clean during the holidays and is beginning to feel run over by 10 lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing and all the assorted livestock, with the five golden rings having been accidentally thrown out with the wrapping paper long ago.
And personally, I always felt that I got the better deal anyway. Every Christmas, instead of having to feed and house 50 people and 23 birds that “my true love” wished on me, I could sit down and take hold of the world.
Or at least, of the World Almanac.
Every year, it sat like a gift-wrapped brick at the foot of the tree: the new World Almanac, the book that proved the World Wide Web would have an audience long before the first dancing cat ever hit a computer screen. I plundered that volume for nations and flags of the world, for county-by-county presidential results, for the true names of celebrities and the weirdest facts to hit the headlines. About the only thing it was missing was a random image of Rick Astley on page 47 singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
In a family where knowledge of odd and random facts was a given – a friend of mine once called dinner at our house “The Rochat Family Jeopardy Hour” – this was one of the vital grounding points, and mighty cool reading besides. Looking back, it was also a pretty good way to meet the New Year, getting a quick reminder of the year just past before stepping out into uncertain territory.
That’s an important function of New Year’s Day. Maybe even the only one.
When you think about it, New Year’s is a pretty odd holiday. Granted, all holidays are pretty odd. These are the times when we set aside a day to begging for chocolate in masks, or eating candy out of socks, or painting food and hiding it in the back yard for our kids to find (or, more often, for our dogs to discover, snarf and get sick on). Compared to this, a holiday to declare “Hey, we used up another calendar!” almost seems pretty normal.
Still, you wonder. It’s a birthday celebration for no one in particular, a chance to go wild over leaving the festivities of December for the bleakness of January. And it’s not like most of us have a choice in the matter. It’s a little like popping corks and playing music to celebrate going to the grocery store; the journey is going to happen, with or without the Auld Lang Syne.
Its sole purpose is to be a stopping point. A crossroads.
And maybe that’s enough.
It’s easy to get immersed in life, or at least in existence. When I was a kid, the Talking Heads had a hit with “Once in a Lifetime,” which hit a bit close to home for many people:
“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack,
And you may find yourself in another part of the world,
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile,
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife,
And you may ask yourself “Well … how did I get here?”
This is the “how” – the chance to break the surface of the water and understand the surroundings before diving back in. And that current moves fast.
At this time last year, I was still a full-time newspaper reporter.
At this time last year, I hadn’t yet gained my niece Emma or lost my Grandma Elsie.
At this time last year, we were still getting used to a Clydesdale of a dog named Blake. Still flinching at the sound of a rainstorm and the flood-filled memories it created. Still wondering if anything could stop the Broncos on their way to the Super Bowl.
Still wondering what lay ahead.
That’s a book I haven’t gotten to read yet. But I’m looking forward to the next pages. After all, it’s been a pretty exciting story so far.
Friends and readers, may 2015 be everything you asked for and a few things you didn’t.
Maybe even including the partridge in a pear tree.