There’s something comforting about traditions. The notion that they may arrive year after year contains a feeling of safety and belonging. And it is, perhaps, exactly their scarce frequency that makes them extra special and meaningful. The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is not only a time for reflection of things past or planning for things to come. The small (or big) customs associated with it may also provide a great opportunity to become more invested in the present moment and live mindfully whilst creating precious memories.
So, what are some of my end-of-year traditions, you may ask?
Do you know that saying “when man makes plans, God laughs“? Well, I, for one, stopped making plans after going through a traumatic experience a decade or so ago that left me feeling that life as I knew it had ended. Ever since, I’ve refrained from setting goals – even something as simple as setting a reading challenge on Goodreads. Nothing has changed to this day. Despite faithfully tracking my reading year-round, it is only at the end of December that I allow myself to browse through the collective list, counting the books I’ve read. In a way, this habit serves as my reminder not to take anything for granted and enjoy the time that we have alive. I must admit that I went through a major reading slump this year (perks of studying literature, right?), so I do not expect to see a large total this time round.
Some of my own traditions have to do with the very last day of the year. One was established organically when, a few years back, my cousin and I met over coffee on the morning of December 31st. As we were sitting in our favourite cosy, Viennese-style café, we spontaneously started carrying out a different kind of retrospection. I asked her to tell me about the funniest moment of her year. And then the saddest one. She wondered about the most challenging time of mine. I asked about her silliest one. She wondered about my biggest regret. I, about her scariest memory. As we went back and forth, sharing among else joy, anger, sadness, mischief, and pride, we gradually relived all those experiences (many of which we had been through together) and reminded each other and ourselves of all that we’d been through. Over time, as my cousin and I grew apart both spatially and emotionally, the common memories became fewer and fewer. But this tradition is still a precious occasion to recount those moments that may otherwise go unnoticeable in our daily routines.
As we’re about to say goodbye to 2022, I’m reminded of someone once telling me that whatever condition the New Year finds you in, that’s how your year will unfold. I wish I’d remember who that someone was to go back and challenge their claim. Admittedly, on the eve of what turned out to be one of the best years of my life so far, I was sick and exhausted at home after a long day at work. I waited patiently for the clock to strike midnight, wished my family well, and then simply went to sleep. Until that year, I was always super stressed, going out of my way to ensure that when the year changed, it would find me happy (or, at least, trying to be). Needless to say, I don’t take to that belief anymore. Plus, I’m long past the stage of feeling that I must do something out of the ordinary just because it’s NYE. My new tradition is to try and surround myself with loved ones, hopefully, all in good health, with food on our plates and drink in our glasses, and a warm home around us, having fun and enjoying each other’s company.
Finally, although this is rather a New Year’s Day tradition, I couldn’t omit it as it is inextricably linked with my end-of-year/beginning-of-new-one experience as a whole. And it is none other than the annual New Year’s Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic. It is crazy hard to get tickets to actually attend the event in person (believe me, I’ve been trying for years!). However, I enjoy tuning in from afar, no less. The music selection that consists of works by the Strauß family and its contemporary composers changes every year, but it is always masterfully executed. In the television broadcast, it is usually accompanied by scenic Austrian imagery and choreographies by the Vienna State Ballet. One happy constant is the encore, which rouses the audience through the lively notes of the Radetzky March and the Blue Danube Waltz. Marvelling at those familiar melodies that never grow old, I remain hopeful that in the year that has just begun, all will be well.
Image Credit: “New Year Goals” by Marco Verch is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.