THE OLD AND THE NEW
The good thing about the Christmas holiday is that first you have Christmas, with family and a celebration of the happy times with your family: the birth of Christ, a happy event, all the Christmas movies, the gathering where everybody shows their appreciation of each other, and in, our case, the addition of a new baby to the family: so we all get to see the world through the wonder of her eyes. I can imagine her gushing over the presents she gets, the hugs she gets, like an animated doll among us, and the way she will dig into all the cookies and sweets and stuff them in her mouth with both hands.
Seeing the wonder of the world through her eyes, is like the baby Jesus bringing us all innocence and hope in our jaded world: you forget about the wars, the suffering, the incendiary politics, and for a moment you are in the cocoon of the warmth and love of your family.
When I was a kid, I remember going to church on Christmas, but it was during the day, and the church was flooded with light: it was such a joyous time. And, as I write in this issue, we would have the ceremony of visiting lovely people, like my Greek teacher, who I knew from school, only now I saw her at home being a chattery and happy hostess with pearls: a fairytale auntie.
New Year’s Eve has a different feeling. On New Year’s Eve people try to make themselves deliriously happy because they’re welcoming the New Year. But they can’t help themselves, the more they drink, and as the New Year comes closer, they keep remembering the old year, which had its ups and down, but will now be lost forever. And they’re also thinking about the unknown of the New Year, and how frail happiness is. At least the old year was knowable and broken into, like an old shoe—the New Year is a new shoe that might pinch and give you calluses.
Where you’re young, you jump into the new: no regrets. You can’t wait. As you get older, you realize with every passing year that you are getting older, too, and celebrations have the bittersweet quality of Auld Lang Syne: things lost forever, and new things maybe more of the same.
I don’t remember my papou and yiayia in the old country mourning the old year, or particularly welcoming the New Year. They took life for what it was: a continuum of survival. For Greeks, they were a stoic lot and not particularly philosophers or sentimentalists, expect about the people in their family. The constant was the people in their family, their community, their faith. They were mostly uneducated, but the most balanced people in the world.
Hope your Christmas was Merry, hope your New Year’s is full of memories, but also full of hope, and Kali Hronia.