2019 Skelly Family Christmas
"The year is going, let him go"
A long December, and there's reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last. (Counting Crows)

Don't most of us start out New Year's Eve in a bad mood? And as a general rule end it feeling disappointed? Talk about your double whammies. It's got to be the most overhyped holiday of the year. Why do we use it, of all holidays, to usher in a new year?

Or is it the very prospect of a new year in the first place that torpedoes our evening before it starts by playing havoc with our apprehensions? Or is it just me?

But a whole new year! And maybe three hours to get it right. That puts a lot of pressure on a soul. So many things to to go wrong. So many unexpected setbacks to be dealt with, served up by an uncaring fate. Is there really any chance at all this one could wind up any better than the last?

Poets certainly seem to take a dim view of the notion. (The headline is from Tennyson's "In Memoriam.") The bard with the kindest words to be associated with New Year's Eve is probably Robert Burns, who was merely saddened and depressed. Although he didn't actually write "Auld Lang Syne" with New Year's in mind. That was someone else's idea. (In Japan they play it over loudspeakers to indicate that the department store is closing for the night. If you're a shopper that's depressing too.)

W.H. Auden! Now there's a man for New Year's Eve. He didn't actually write "September 1, 1939" for New Year's Eve, but he could have.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives; 

At length he even gets into the concept of New Year's resolutions and the heartbreaking futility of making them. Basically Auden views his fellow men broadly as fundamentally flawed creatures (Hillary Clintons "deplorables") myopically struggling on through murky darkness all the while kidding ourselves to death.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on
my work,' And helpless governors wake To resume their compulsory
game: Who can release them now, Who can reach the dead, Who can speak for the dumb?

Never more so than on New Year's Eve. Oscar Wilde said good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

At the end of "September 1, 1939", which was actually inspired by Hitler's invasion of Poland, Auden goes about trying to put a good face on his rather depressing wasteland vision of human frailty. But he eventually denounced his own efforts as dishonest, and one is inclined to surmise he had his eye on that last verse, below.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

For a while there you get the sense he thought he wasn't one of us. But he really was. All along. Especially on New Years Eve.

And exactly where do the "Just" exchange their messages anyway? For years, people have converged en mass on the last day of the year: in Times Square; at Sydney Harbour, near the Opera House and Harbour Bridge; at CentralWorld Plaza in Bangkok; along London's Thames River, on the beach in Rio and in other better- and lesser-known locales in population centers the world over to ring out the old, ring in the new.

Often with fireworks. (They scare away the evil spirits, plus they're pretty and fun to watch.)

But most of the messaging exchanged at such gatherings is of the fractured, inchoate primal shouting sort. The attendees at such assemblages seem generally rather happy, even gleeful, and maybe even drunk. But that's no measure of the mental state they were in before they got there or how low they're going to feel by the time they finally get back home to their beds.

After all, what could move someone to go looking for such a large crowd on a cold night. Seeking warmth? More likely anonymity. Looking to blend in. Absolution by way of invisibility.

Maybe we're setting ourselves up. Maybe we should focus less on eliminating our flaws as the coming year comes rolling up on us and more on improving our characters. Maybe, paradoxically, New Year's Eve looks more backwards in fear than forward in courage. Maybe this year we should worry less about 20/20 hindsight and concentrate more on 20/20 foresight.

Happy New Year! Let's hope it's a good one.

2018 Index:
Dec. 10-3.35   Dec. 15-3.81   Dec. 20-3.72   Dec. 25-3.59

2019 Index:
Dec. 10-3.39   Dec. 15-3.48   Dec. 20-3.74   Year End-3.41

Season Stats ...

2019 Christmas Spirit breakdown:

A cautious start. Very even distribution. Consumer confidence in the economy has been a little cautious as well since Oct. But just like with GDP, it's still a good number if not a great one. It may just be people are shy, waiting to see what's going to happen. They can't be happy unless you're happy too.

The shyness seems to have abated. A pretty good head of steam. People are feeling it this year.

Hmm, cooled off a little. Joy to the World in slight decline; Bah Humbug in a mild uptick. Other categories treading water. Are the bears breaking through? What does this mean for tomorrow's stock market?

A little late season lassitude, for the second year in a row. Guess people weren't feeling it so much after all. Funny, the stock market is on a tear. Don't you people invest?

Unusual to inject another observation at this point. Evidently some people took umbrage at being characterized as "lassitudinous" and have engaged in what, if memory serves, must be termed an unprecedented spate of post-Christmas Day votecasting on the Index. It's only closed over 4 on five occasions in its 10-year existence and rarely moves after the holiday arrives.
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