An Adult New Year’s Eve

So. New Year celebrations without the firecrackers. Safer probably, but was it as much fun to remember, the day after? Or did we just pedestrian-ize it?

Think Christmas.

The arrival of the Christmas season used to be really obvious. It was the only time Christmas lights came out on the streets. And then big cities started stringing lights along the central dividers of their major streets, putting up twinkling displays in their trees, and festooning buildings with light tracks. It soon looked like Christmas everyday – so what set Christmas season apart?

Much the same thing happened to fireworks.

When big corporations like SM started putting up weekly fireworks shows – following the lead of theme parks I suppose – everyone wanted their own. Now, you see fireworks marking birthdays, weddings, and random anniversaries. Just another signal of celebratory glee.

And now firecrackers.

I’m old enough to remember waking up on January 1, still excited about the noise of the Judas Belts and the Goodbye Philippineses our neighbours set off the night before. It was the subject of most New Year’s Day conversations. Who had the loudest bang? Who spent the most money? Sure, a lot of those conversations carried the brittle edge of censure, but deep down, I suspect that even those of us who protested the loudest at the expense, would have blown money on firecrackers if only we had money to spare.

Even the clean-up was a sort of annual rite. Dousing the streets to defuse any unexploded firecrackers, and then sweeping up the sopping wet detritus of the previous year, sort of added a visceral dimension to “out with old, in with the new.” Kids were conscripted to do the sweeping – siblings, cousins, and the children of family friends (not necessarily our friends) all goofing off, scaring each other silly with every bit of dry trianggulo found. Hung-over adults, mostly engaged in some hair-of-the-dog remedy, would “supervise,”  and occasionally light a surviving firecracker.

We talked to neighbors too, as they cleaned up their segment of the street. It was an opportunity for comradely nods and awkward handshakes, wishing each other the best of the coming year. There was never too much sentimentality, but there were human connections made in that very short day before everyone had to go back to the real world of work and school and not talking to each other beyond the hurried hellos.

But today, there was none of that.

This year started very quietly in the neighbourhoods. Most everyone either glued to the television, cheering vicariously as some celebrities pranced around on stage, shouting themselves hoarse in some park far away. The people who were actually in those parks looked like they were having a good time, but you couldn’t escape the sense that they were having a good time watching the festivities rather than being in them. Do you know what I mean? And in our homes, well, there was the internet.

But sure, firecracker injuries were down 60%. Wow. But you know what? When you pack away that battered old BMX that you used to ride to undiscovered corners of the subdivision you lived in, that BMX that gave you the freedom to meet up with friends for an afternoon of just cruising in each other’s company, packing that BMX away resulted in a 99% decrease in scratches and skinned knees.

I don’t know that I like celebrating New Year’s eve this way. There’s no doubt that everyone’s safer. And that most people aren’t spending their money on the fleeting joy of exploding things. Nah. We’re all smarter now, it seems. More practical. More grown-up.

Yeah. New’s Year eve grew up and adulting is that much closer to being a year-round affair.


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