My father once told me that, as a kid growing up the 1940s Scottish Highlands, they didn’t really celebrate Christmas. New Year’s was the big holiday for them.
Children got stockings on Christmas morning, but that was about it. People still went to work on December 25th. Then TV and consumer culture came along and changed everything etc.
So what is it about New Year’s that resonates? I mean, it’s just a number, right? So why the big deal?
Well, for one thing, it’s not just a number. New Year’s coincides with the winter solstice, when the nights stop getting longer and start getting lighter. When winter stops waxing and the waning begins. A faint promise of an eventual Spring, rebirth etc.
Sure, this would have special meaning to anyone in an agricultural society (e.g. the Scottish Highlands), but it also taps into a deeper psychological need we all have.
i.e. The need to begin again. The need to reinvent ourselves, the need to find new possibilities, both inside and outside of ourselves.
It’s what gives life meaning. It’s why we breathe.