2015 is coming to an end, though it does not feel so while strolling along the beach by the Indian Ocean. With many small and big surfers around trying to catch the best wave, I am humming to myself “What are you doing New Year’s Eve” by Vonda Shepard. Not sure even where this song came from.
New Year is a new beginning, another 365 day cycle, allowing us to start with new wishes, resolutions, promises, plans and etc. No stress, in case something does not work, there will always be next month or next Monday.
So, what are you doing on New Year’s Eve?
In Europe it is more likely to be a party with friends, champagne at midnight and fireworks (well, except in Paris). In Japan, it is a complete opposite, a family only gathering, a bit like Christmas for the Westerners. No fireworks either, but instead ringing the bells for 108 times in temples and shrines to erase the 108 worldly desires that we, human beings, have according to Buddhism.
Traveling and living in different countries gives you one great thing, i.e. possibility to adapt the traditions you like and make them your own. I particularly like the Spanish one, where everyone eats 12 grapes and thinks of 12 wishes with each of the 12 clock strikes at midnight. If you happen to be in Spain for the New Year, all shops are selling sets with 12 grapes for that purpose.
As was said in the Little Prince, people need rituals. I am no exception and I bet so are you, be it a coffee in one’s favourite place or 12 grapes and wishes for the New Year. The trick here is not to prepare the wish list in advance, but write down what comes to your mind right before the midnight. When done on the spot, your list may surprise you! Then hide it somewhere until the following December 31st!
This year, I will happen to be in the airport between the flights on the way to Japan. No grapes for sure, we’ll see about the champagne, but in any case, I will have a pen and a piece of paper for my 12 wishes. Back in Japan I may even go to a temple to see the crowds and listen to the bells. Maybe it will erase one faux pas that I did by not sending out a single New Year’s card to my colleagues. It is something you may want to remember should you end up in Japan one day – the cards are sent out to family, relatives, friends, colleagues, clients and everyone else you can think of. They say, about 4 billion cards are sent each year (just for comparison, the population of Japan is around 128 million), though for us, Westerners, cards are mainly for friends and close family.
Whichever way you decide to start your 2016 (or year 28 as per Japanese system, based on the reign of the Emperor), I hope you will have a great one! Do something you have always wanted to, but have not done yet because you were afraid, busy, not sure, or whatever other excuse it may have been. May it be so that when you look back in one year, you would say “Quelle Année!”
With love, (still) from Bali