Anyone up for New Year’s ’09 celebration?

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

It took me years, not months, to discern the importance of beginning a new year. Obviously to a child, and less obviously to a young adult, time rolls endlessly ahead of you — an ocean of time, a roadmap of time, a night sky of time.

Then one day or one year, it stops — you stop. You realize the value and validity of new beginnings, of starting a fresh set of hopes and dreams. You realize that you don’t have forever. Perhaps you make a mistake you cannot correct, or you score a victory that you know will never be repeated, or perhaps your entire life changes direction.

“There must be something inside of us that needs to unload the accumulated results of fate and our own decisions and start anew. The Romans knew this. The month of January was named for their god, Janus, who is pictured with two heads. One looks forward, the other back, symbolizing a break between the old and new.” {John Shepler}

So we have New Year resolutions, and we have assessments of where we have been, what we have done, and what we hope to accomplish. As a sideline suggestion, resolutions are more successful if they are kept manageable and concrete. Don’t, for example, resolve to lose 50 pounds during 2008. Rather, set a goal of 10 pounds by the beginning of summer. Don’t tell yourself that you will save enough to retire by the end of the year. Resolve to increase your rate of savings by 2 percent.

Are there any models for presenting the New Year celebration in a way which meets and manages expectations and possibilities? Is there an alternative to partying til you regret it, or sitting around watching the ageless Dick Clark ring in another year?

First Night. Ever heard of it? There is no First Night community in New Mexico, surprisingly enough. Not Albuquerque, not Santa Fe, nor Las Cruces. The closest to us is Fort Collins, CO.

“First Night revives the ancient traditions of marking the passage of time in a present day context. It was invented by a group of civic-minded artists in Boston as a meaningful alternative to traditional New Year’s Eve revelry. Offered to the city as a finale to its bicentennial events in 1976, it was also the beginning of a new tradition that brought the neighboring communities together through a joint celebration

“To recapture the symbolic significance of the passage from the old year to the new; to unite the community through a shared cultural celebration; to deepen and broaden the public’s appreciation of the visual and performing arts.” (First Night Web site)

By the way, First Night celebrations are non-alcoholic. To me, presence of alcohol is not an issue, but I certainly don’t believe it needs to be available for one to have fun. This is done in order to keep a family-friendly atmosphere. Probably keeps the cost down, as well.

I’m going to throw out a proposal to anyone who is interested. If enough people (10 or more) are interested, then I will head it up. Since First Night is rooted in the arts community, maybe that is where the response should come from first. My e-mail is always on this column.

It is too late for First Night 2008, but there’s plenty of time to plan for 2009. New Mexico has no First Night community. Why not us? Why not next year?

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: