2018 Skelly Family Christmas
Time You Thief
And we who couldn't bear to believe they might make it, we got to close our eyes.
Cut up our losses into doable doses, ration our tears and sighs.
Most of us weren't built to be existentialists, dealing with a steady onslaught of small victories and catastrophic losses and just tossing our daily outrages off as the cost of living and the grinding down inexorably at our soul as just the nature of things.

Most of us need to compartmentalize. We need a reset button. If there were no New Year's baby, we would have invented him. He offers us an emotional release mechanism without which most of us simply could not go on.

Years make a handy container for cataloging and bundling the travails of life into, storing them for future reflexion. For the less contemplative, the New Year baby gives us a mechanism for ritually forgetting about those travails, dropping them in a heap on the old side of the ball drop and just moving on.

The custom of using a baby to symbolize the New Year began in Greece around 600 B.C. It was brought to America by Germans, who had used the effigy since the fourteenth century. And it's a good symbol, as parents who have raised several children can attest. You're always hoping you're going to get the next one right.

You might think this kind of getting in touch with what must be termed your psychic inadequacy or, if you will, at least your puny insignificance up against the irresistible forces of indifferent fate, might call for at least a moment or two of solitary self-reflection, -forgiveness and -rededication.

That doesn't seem to be the case with New Years, however. It appears, judging from the throngs gathered in Times Square to mark the transition from old year to new, most people want to be in the largest crowd of strangers possible and to do it with raucously celebratory enthusiasm. These people are happy as hell. No shame, no sense of personal inadequacy or cosmic injustice. They want to get their party on in the biggest, most delirious way possible.

It's almost surprising they let old Father Time depart so easily, without tarring and feathering him first. Clearly he's the one bearing the burden of all the old year's problems and disappointments.

People have been gathering en mass at the corner of 42nd and Broadway in midtown New York to ring out the old, ring in the new since 1904, three full years before the first ball-drop. Both the gathering and the ball descent were conceived by Arthur Ochs, publisher of The New York Times, as a publicity stratagem for his new headquarters in the renamed Times Square (previously Longacre Square). And from the beginning he had no trouble attracting a willing crowd.

They've been whooping it up there ever since.

Concepcion de Leon, a staffer writing for that same paper a century later observed in an article, just last week, that the hundreds of thousands who gather to watch in person the ball descent are in turn watched by millions more eye balls in households across the country and even the world, joining up in vicarious participation. ("Epic New Year's Eve Photos: Vintage Fashion and Ecstatic Crowds." Access could be denied; the Times allows non-subscribers to view only a limited number of stories each month.)

De Leon writes, "For many Latinos, a new year is an almost magical chance for us to wipe the slate clean when the clock strikes midnight." Her sentiment would seem to be more universal than she thinks. She quotes lines from the Gloria Estefan New Year's song "Abriendo Puertas": Y vamos abriendo puertas, y vamos cerrando heridas. Translation: "And we are opening doors and we are closing wounds."

Her sentiments would seem to be more universal than she thinks.

And in Times Square they are doing so with such a ferocious enthusiasm! Apparently it feels much better that way. No need for reflection; just get your party on.

In relative safety, too. Early photos of Times Square festivities on New Year's Eve make clear the authorities gave little forethought to terrorist attacks or even rudimentary crowd control. Obviously all that started to change after 9/11.

Managing large gatherings of people who aren't thinking clearly about their own safety and security —be it at the Rose Bowl or political conventions or St. Patrick's Day Parades—has progressed passed fine art to scientific precision. And New York is ground zero in the large-crowd security game.

Last night's Times Square festivities were patrolled by no fewer than 7,000 of New York's finest, in uniform, heavily armed and wirelessly connected to a central command. There were counterterrorism teams with long guns and bomb-sniffing dogs. There were countless webcams strategically positioned to monitor the crowd. And an overhead drone circling on a tether (flying in a cordoned-off area so as not to soar directly above the revelers). Plainclothes officers mixed in the crowd throughout the evening; security personal scanned the crowd from rooftops. Manhole covers were sealed and radiation detectors deployed.

One reveler was overheard telling a companion, "You're safer down here than you'd be in church. Not realizing even that is not the standard it used to be.

In early years revelers were packed in cheek-by-jowl, forming an ocean of humanity covering several blocks, stretching north and south as well as east and west. Last night's crowd was segmented up into discreet clots, to facilitate passage by emergency vehicles, as well as orderly dispersal if necessary, and provide clear sight lines. Sand-laden sanitation trucks and police cars were positioned as barriers. In actuality, like partying in a war zone.

No one seemed to mind. Or even notice.

Our modern lives have certainly changed. But the beat goes on. Especially on New Year's Eve.

Prospero Ano y Felicidad! Happy New Year. May all your hopes and dreams, in the fullness of time, come true. And don't forget to have a good time. That would appear to be an important step. And see something, say something.

Tenth Annual Skelly Family Christmas Video

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2017 Index:
Dec. 10-2.92   Dec. 15-3.12   Dec. 20-3.77   Dec. 25-4.13

2018 Index:
Dec. 10-3.35   Dec. 15-3.48   Dec. 20 -3.71   Dec. 25-3.72   Right now: 3.69

Season Stats to Date ...

Current Christmas Spirit breakdown:

Slightly more positive Christmas Spirit than the previous six years at this time. However, notably larger than usual bulge in mid-range response ("Do You Hear What I Hear)." Which way will this sentiment trend as we go deeper into the season? A bi-polar stock market offers little guidance. Unusaully small curmudgeon factor at this stage ("Bah Humbug)."

Better than last year, better than previous benchmark. But lower than usual top score. Alan Greenspan, that gifted explainer of all kinds of markets (even though he helped give us the Great Recession because he wasn't worried about derivatives), would say the Christmas Spirit Index, while quite positive overall, at this point lacks the irrational exuberance of other years. Then he would equivocate by pointing out we've still got ten days left to get irrational. Party on, Garth.

Still not not exuberant yet. Certainly not irrational. Still growing, but last time the index stood below 3.75 on Dec. 20 was back in 2012. Top septile (the red one) at this point would ordinarily be in above-30% range. However, some of those years were just crazy. Perhaps this is just you being sensible. We'll see next week.

Other Christmases have been merrier, spirit-wise. Market feels the same way, evidently. Hopefully, boh will revive in the new year.

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