New Year, New Decade

extinguished candles smoking

New Year’s Day, 2020. I’m moving round the house taking down the Christmas decorations, little bits of tinsel shedding onto the carpet, and it strikes me that I’ve never taken down the Christmas decorations on New Year’s Day before. It’s not traditional is it, and isn’t there something about it being bad luck to strip the halls before Twelfth Night?

Bad luck …

I don’t want to invite bad luck. Who does? But I’ve been thinking about tradition quite a lot lately, the hallowed rituals we follow, blindly for the most part, and maybe it’s because today isn’t only the start of a new year, but the beginning of a new decade in an increasingly fragile world, that I’m scrutinizing tradition.

This Christmas (which is now “last” Christmas) I called time on the time-honoured tradition of crackers. Christmas crackers have bothered me for years. The cheap ones feed landfill straight away. The fancy ones feed landfill a week or two later when you realise that you already have three small sets of screwdrivers in the drawer and you prefer your cardboard bookmark to the sharp silver plated book clip or whatever it is that fell out of your luxury, embossed, hand-finished cracker. This year, I got everyone a lottery ticket instead. Nobody won (damn!) but at least the money goes into the lottery fund which hopefully helps to finance good causes and worthy projects, and the five paper lottery tickets can be recycled.

And talking of recycling, I gave the glittery Christmas cards a miss this time. Like most people, I’m sending fewer cards these days anyway, but anything with glitter or lurex (don’t get me started on why “festive” PJ’s and slippers seem to require lurex thread and sequins) can’t be recycled. I did the “brown paper packages tied up with string” for the few presents I did buy. Curmudgeonly? Miserly? Not at all, but as a family we agreed that this year we’d focus on the joy of being together … and if that all sounds a bit Little Women, I should add that we spent a jolly afternoon malt whisky tasting!

The traditional New Year’s firework displays around the world also trouble me. Sickening to see Sidney going all out while bush fires ravage Victoria and New South Wales … but every city is to blame. Year on year the spectacle grows more and more spectacular. In Edinburgh the firework display went on for ten whole minutes … money going up in smoke, smoke choking an already asthmatic world. Going forward into this new decade, I would like to see governments around the world curtailing these displays. Mark the New Year, yes! But a three minute display would suffice, wouldn’t it?

So, as I tuck my decorations away for another year, on the “wrong” day, inviting goodness knows how much bad luck, I suppose what I’m trying to do is to unhitch myself from the wagon called tradition because whilst tradition is laudable in so many ways, it can also bind us to outmoded ways of thinking and doing. As we stand at the edge of a new decade, in a world on the brink of catastrophic, irreversible change, it’s time I feel, to hit the “refresh” button on some of our traditions.

What do you think?

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