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The New Year’s Eve Paradox

New Year’s Eve, often touted as a juncture of hope and renewal, is a time for fresh starts and clean slates. Superstition suggests that if the New Year’s Eve is appalling, then that’s how the next year is going to be. Consequently, there is immense pressure not just to participate, but to do it right.

Movies often portray a New Year’s Eve full of intrigue, with attractive people in sparkly outfits strutting off to vacation spots. It looks so exciting that we oblige, but the reality often looks different. If you had the idea to travel, so did thousands of others.

The Reality of Vacation Spots

Indian hill stations like Manali are currently experiencing this reality. Over 65,000 tourists entered the hilly town just on Christmas Day, beginning their long vacation by causing a traffic nightmare. Some avoided the jam by taking the road less traveled, quite literally, by driving through a river. But hill stations aren’t the only ones taking a hit; other vacation hotspots like Jaipur are also congested.

India is hardly the only one with a travel surge. In China, after three years of restrictions, the Chinese are unleashing their party energy. Year-end travel bookings have risen by an astonishing 465% compared to last year. Train bookings have surged by 194% during New Year’s weekend, and 1.5 million people will cross China’s border.

America is a travel hotspot too. In the last week of December, people are flocking in to see the ball drop, and 115 million Americans are traveling, a 2.2% increase compared to last year. It seems like the entire world has plans, especially if we were to believe social media.

The New Year’s Eve Dilemma

New Year’s Eve is like that extroverted party guest you see once a year. It arrives super late, and no matter how exhausted you are after a long year, it demands that you turn up the music. The night usually ends with regrets about not having a good time or remorse about having too much of a good time. No matter what you do, there’s a good chance New Year’s Eve will be terrible.

According to a 1999 study, the harder people try to make New Year’s Eve fun, the more dissatisfied they are. Study after study underscores this concept: forcing yourself to be happy is the surest way to be miserable. The pressure to have a good time is so huge that the end result is usually underwhelming, if not downright depressing.

A Different Perspective

The newness we hope for is only ours to construct. January 1st is just a number after all, and it’s not everyone’s number of choice either. The Chinese New Year is in February, Ethiopians will celebrate theirs in September, many Muslims will celebrate it in July, and in India, a new year is celebrated on nine different dates due to cultural diversity.

Not just the date, but the manner of celebration differs too. Many Indians light lamps, the Danish smash plates, Brazilians eat lentils, the Spanish eat grapes, and South Americans walk with empty suitcases.

So, before you welcome new beginnings, here’s some food for thought: this New Year’s Eve, allow yourself to do what you want. Travel or party only if you want to, but also know that there’s nothing wrong with a low-key ceremony at home. Call it an early night, or if you’re a parent, argue about bedtime with your children till midnight. And if that doesn’t cut it, smash plates, eat grapes, or light a lamp – whatever works for you.

But most of all, take off the pressure. A New Year’s Eve is as much about renewal as it is about changing digits from 2023 to 2024. And if that is all the change that you want to celebrate, you do you.

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