When I was a little girl I used to make my parents and sister wake up at the crack of dawn to open presents on Christmas day. As I grew up, Christmas day started later and later. Eventually, presents became less important and rather the traditions that we had and the people we celebrated with became the core of the holiday. This year I was in Germany for Christmas. My first Christmas not at home in Maine. To be honest, it was completely normal. I got to experience a traditional German Christmas with all the glory of a foreigner. I realize that Christmas is no longer this concrete holiday that we celebrate the same way every year, but rather a fluid and changing part of my cultural world. You no longer have to be Christian to celebrate the holiday and where you do it also doesn't matter. How you celebrate it is completely subjective. I have some Jewish friends who celebrate by going to the movies or ordering Chinese take-out. I think the holiday will continue to develop and I will celebrate a little differently every year. Now that I have the customs of a German Christmas under my belt I will share them with my family and friends and spread those traditions to those I love. That is how Cultural Anthropology works my friends!
Oh shit! Guess what? It is a new year!!!! I know. I almost forgot ;-). But seriously, I am so glad that it is finally 2014. As I think most people would agree, the new year is like a new page, a new leaf, a new start. It is completely cliche and cheesy, but it is true and I think it helps people to feel like that have power again and hope again. Of course most New Year's Resolutions fail miserably, but some do succeed and I think that any chance people take to better themselves is worthy of hefty celebration. I was in Hamburg with some tremendous young intelligent women for New Year's Eve and Day. We celebrated to the max and did not leave a thing out. For dinner we cooked an insanely elaborate Mexican meal with yummy spicy beans, guacamole, SALSA from the USA since you can't procure such luxury items here in DE, and many other yummy sides. I tried to make margaritas with vodka. Oops. I know. They were actually alright, but not the real thing. After dinner we chatted, ate homemade chocolate mousse, and painted our faces with war paint for the big celebration. Somehow we made it to the Alster, which is like a giant pond in the middle of the city where lots of rich people live. We posted ourselves on a bridge with two bottles of Prosecco and plastic cups and sparklers. It was absolutely surreal. Hundreds of people crowded the bridge. Drunk screams of joy and excitement mingled in the air with cracks, fizzles, pops, and bangs from firecrackers. The street was left mostly clear for the larger fireworks. Since most people were probably either pleasantly buzzed or completely plastered, all sense of safety and sensibility went out the window. People were setting professional grade fireworks off in the midst of this huge crowd. The air was full of sulfur and smoke and ash. It was like a war zone, or at least how I can imagine one. Not only was this completely wild, but cars were still driving across the bridge through this complete and utter chaos. They swerved between exploding fireworks. It was wild. I even saw an entire box of fireworks catch on fire.
Midnight drew nearer. We opened a bottle and distributed the fizzy drink. We lit sparklers, screamed, laughed, hugged strangers, and checked our clocks diligently. Apparently Germans don't count down the last 10 seconds like Americans, so of course, we Americans had to countdown. It was thrilling. I felt like a hot-air balloon that could float away with happiness. At midnight people tried their best to explode the city with celebration. All inhibition was gone and it was just pure humanity. That night will live on in the book of New Year's Eves that are hard to beat.
Now it is a new year. The gyms are more full than normal with people trying to fulfill New Year's resolutions, somehow we feel like this is a new chance to start over. I believe it. I will always be a complete romantic about New Year's. I think people need the chance to turn over a new page. We need the hope that it is possible to start again with a somewhat clean slate. Of course, we carry all of ourselves from past years forever, but a new year is a chance to say "hey, this year, things will be different". I want to keep that hope alive. Thinking of all the things that have made me who I am and trying to see beauty more in everyday life. Happy New Year everyone. I hope it's a good one.