What the New Year Means to this World and to Me

Posted: December 31, 2010 in culture, Media, Popular Culture

We have a lot of traditions that make our culture rich. Most of these have no logical reasons but simple demonstrations of our beliefs. Robert Kohl and Gary Weaver’s model of culture iceberg illustrate that behavior, language, traditions and customs are visibly manifested as our surface culture, but their underlying explanations are beneath the obvious — the thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and values that we carry and share with others as deep culture.

We celebrate and welcome the new year with a bang: deafening sounds, firecrackers, lights spectacle, smorgasbord of food on the dining table, colorful polka dots clothing, shower of coins, display of fruits, jumping and shouting. All these and more are what we do for a single day that is just part of a continuum of dates in our socially-constructed calendar. Throughout the world and not only in the Philipines that we await for the ticking of the clock for the new year.

The occasion is so meaningful to us that we happen to celebrate it in various colorful and symbolic ways. The day is officially marked as holiday in most parts of the world, no work and all fun in the joyous celebration. Its a single day that calls for reflection of the past 365 days of our life. Its a day that marks a new beginning, a link between the past and the future. Its a day that means change, hope, anticipation, wishful thinking, dreams, renewal, transformation, and continuity of our life in this world.

In retrospect, the year 2000 was one time believed to usher doom with the Y2K bug. The IT industry could not determine what would truly happen when the calendar starts to go back to four zeroes. Doomsayers thought of the end of the world. The faithfuls bombarded the heavens with pleas for life continuity.  But all is well, and no serious damage to the networked world and to commerce happened. People were quick to address the critical situation beforehand.

The new year is something mystical to the unknowing and those people who are dependent on thoughts outside of their own. Thus, some people seek guidance from fortune tellers or psychics. But then how much of their predictions have come to life? Aren’t those they say are general knowledge that applies in most aspects of our life in this world? The future is always a mystery, but there are means that we can actually know what’s going to happen in many cases of our lives. That is if we know how to read the signs and how well informed are we about what happened before.

The new year will then be a history, and we will keep holding on to the coming year. We celebrate it symbolically because we associate the day with a lot of things in our life. Our mental programs dictate how we behave to this day in looking up to the times ahead of us. We value family and we believe that we stick together on the first day of the year, we will stick together for the rest of our lives. Thus, we stay as a family for dinner in our celebration of the new year.

As we believe, think and assume things, these mental states manifest in our language. The complexity of the culture before us are handed through oral traditions and the observed trans-generational customs of welcoming the new year. Hence, we imbibe a more traditional way of welcoming the new year. Further, it is difficult to change the way we celebrate this day.

Consider the unregulated use of firecrackers, reckless use of firearms and unecological burning of tires on the new year’s eve. There are dangers in all these, but such unknowing behavior keeps on because of some false beliefs that had been traditionally handed to us. Houses billow down into ashes, fingers arms and other body parts lost, lives and properties are taken away by these seemingly wonderful means of celebrating the new year.

We are symbol-making and symbol-using creatures. New Year is just a symbol of a time in our life. The way we celebrate it are also meaningful symbols that we can not immediately understand, because its meaning lies deep in our hearts. The traditional ways we celebrate it are but cultural artifacts that have been handed to us. They are essential for us to understand our history and the evolution of our culture.

As to me and my family. The new year is a meaningful time for us to stay together, not only on new year’s eve but for the rest of our lives. The new year is a time for me to look forward upon looking what I am leaving behind. The new year is a time for me to gear up for the best times that I hope for and which I will commit and labor for. May you find this new day of the year meaningful for you. Happy New Year everyone!

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