Archive for the ‘#newyears’ Tag

Reflection Time   4 comments

December 30, 2019

Do your characters celebrate New Years’ and if so, how? If not, why not?

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A Word from the History/Philosophy Geek

As the world counts down to midnight, we’re turning our blogs toward the subject of the New Year and celebrations our characters might engage in.

Historically, the new year wasn’t always on Jan. 1, and still isn’t in some cultures.

The ancient Mesopotamians celebrated their 12-day-long New Year’s festival of Akitu on the vernal equinox, while the Greeks partied around the winter solstice, on Dec. 20. The Roman historian Censorius reported that the Egyptians celebrated another lap around the sun on July 20. During the Roman era, March marked the beginning of the calendar. Then, in 46 B.C., Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar, which set the new year when it is celebrated today. That didn’t standardize the day. New Year’s celebrations continued to drift back and forth in the calendar, even landing on Christmas Day at some points, until Pope Gregory XIII implemented the Gregorian calendar in 1582, which was an attempt to make the calendar stop wandering with the seasons.

Though the selection of the new year is essentially arbitrary from a planetary perspective, there is one noteworthy astronomical event that occurs around this time: The Earth is closest to the sun in early January, a point known as the perihelion.

Nowadays, Jan. 1 is almost universally recognized as the beginning of the new year, though there are a few holdouts: Afghanistan, Ethiopian, Iran, Nepal and Saudi Arabia rely on their own calendars. Different religions also celebrate their New Year’s at different times. For instance, the Jewish calendar is lunar, and its New Year’s festival, Rosh Hashanah, is typically celebrated between September and October. The Islamic calendar is also lunar, and the timing of the new year can drift significantly (In 2008, the Islamic New Year was celebrated on Dec. 29, while it fell on Sept. 22 in 2017). The Chinese calendar is also lunar, but the Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20.

Why does the start of the new year carry such special symbolism that its celebration is practically universal? Behavior this ubiquitous must surely be tied to something intrinsic in the human animal, something profoundly meaningful and important, given all the energy and resources we invest not just in the celebration but also in our efforts to make good on a fresh set of resolutions, even though we mostly fail to keep them. It may be that the symbolism we attach to this moment is rooted in one of the most powerful motivations of all: survival.

Human beings love to party and we seem to enjoy patterns. As our birthdays do, New Year’s Day provides us the chance to celebrate having made it through another 365 days, the unit of time by which we keep chronological score of our lives. Another year over, and we’re still here! Time to raise our glasses and toast our survival.

Resolutions are about survival, too—living healthier, better, longer? New Year’s resolutions are examples of the universal human desire to have some control over the future that is unsettling and unknowable. To counter that worrisome powerlessness, we do things to take control. We resolve to diet, exercise, quit smoking, and to start saving. Committing to them, at least for a moment, gives us a feeling of more control over the uncertain days to come.

There are hundreds of good-luck rituals woven among New Year celebrations, also practiced in the name of exercising a little control over fate. The Dutch, for whom the circle is a symbol of success, eat donuts. Greeks bake special Vassilopitta cake with a coin inside, bestowing good luck in the coming year on whoever finds it in his or her slice. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve started in China millennia ago as a way to chase off evil spirits. The Japanese hold New Year’s Bonenkai, or “forget-the-year parties,” to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a better new one. Disagreements and misunderstandings between people are supposed to be resolved, and grudges set aside. In a New Year’s ritual for many cultures, houses are scrubbed to sweep out the bad vibes and make room for better ones (which was also the connection to bringing evergreens into our houses back in the Celtic era).

A lot of evangelical Christians I know celebrate New Years with a “watch night.” They get together to eat massive amounts of food, play games, shoot off fireworks, stand around a bonfire and pray for their family, friends, community, state, nation and the world.

Everywhere, New Year’s is a moment to consider our weaknesses, mull over how we might reduce the vulnerabilities they pose, and to do something about the scary powerlessness that comes from thinking about the unsettling unknown of what lies ahead. As common as these shared behaviors are across both history and culture, it’s fascinating to realize that the special ways that people note this unique passage of one day into the next are probably all manifestations of the human animal’s fundamental imperative for survival.

First, not all my characters celebrate modern holidays

In Daermad Cycle, no, my Celdryans (descendants of Celts) do not celebrate New Year’s like Americans and Europeans do. Although the Romans (they call them Rawmanes) of their era would have celebrated something like New Year’s midwinter, they were not thoroughly romanized before they left Europe to somehow find their way to Daermad and found the kingdom of Celdryan. In thoroughly Celtic fashion, the Celdryans celebrate their “new year” in November and they call it Samhain. There are elements of Dia de le Morte in their worship – they believe the dead walk on Samhain.

The Kin (an indigenous people who live nearby) celebrate the winter and summer solstices and consider the winter solstice to be the start of their new year. Their culture is one of laughter, dance and community, so the solstice is just a larger gathering of laughing people and dancing, although they also use it as a time to record the year’s events and the memorialize prior year’s events.

What Happens in Kansas

Shifting my attention to Transformation Project — the story is set in modern America the day after tomorrow following a series of terrorism attacks that have devastated the government and much of society. I focus on a small town in the Midwest that keeps surviving by sheer grit, innovation and faith.

Of course they still “celebrate” the holidays they were used to. In Gathering In (the most recent book in the series) the Delaney family gathered for Thanksgiving and their annual tradition of saying what each person is grateful for in the midst of death and destruction took on new and poignant meaning. When 30 million people died around you recently, your definition of gratitude changes dramatically.

In “Winter’s Reckoning” (the next as-yet-unpublished book in the series) the family gathers for New Year’s Eve. They are a largely evangelical family living in a conservative town. Shane is an agnostic bordering on atheism and some of the adopted family members may not have as deep a faith, but the Delaneys are mostly church-going people. When they gather for a celebration of New Year’s, there will be a faith-based focus. The town is running low on food and medicine and their hopeful view from Thanksgiving seems misplaced. The Delaneys lost a family member at the end of Gathering In and a member of the household is recovering from serious injuries in the next room, so they keep it low key – a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, hot tea, popcorn and toast, and good company. Certainly they’re going to pray for their community and the larger situation. Will also they review the year past and consider the future? That would have been part of the watch night in previous years, but are they brave enough to do that in the midst of an overwhelming disaster? Do they want to consider how they contributed to it or what it’s going to take to recover from it? The characters haven’t told me what they’re going to do yet.

A Holiday Dedicated to Drinking

From the very first book in the series, I established Rob Delaney is a recovering alcoholic. It’s just a part of his life and it’s not central to the story. At the end of Gathering In, he might have been headed toward a relapse. As I write the story of that first New Years since the end of the world as they knew it, I pause to consider if Rob might struggle with a holiday dedicated to getting drunk. While those of us who don’t have a problem with alcohol thoroughly enjoy ourselves, we may well be torturing people who can’t safely participate.

Bright Lights & Big Booms

Fireworks are an amazing thing and here in Fairbanks, Alaska, New Years is the only time we can really enjoy them. Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day never get dark enough at night to do justice to brightly colored lights in the sky and we risk setting the forests on fire. But New Year’s Eve, we have a huge community-wide fireworks display and then tons of little ones done by ordinary people funding North Pole Christian School by patronizing its fireworks booth. The night is 18 hours long and fireworks don’t still have enough heat when they hit the ground to set anything on fire. We can enjoy in freedom and without fear.

I wanted to include some fireworks in the New Year’s celebration in Emmaus, Kansas, because fireworks are a quintessentially American way to celebrate New Years. And, truthfully, what are the use of fireworks during an apocalyptic situation? I suppose you could collect all that black powder into a massive bomb, but practically, their best use is to brighten a dark night make even darker by human evil to other humans.

I didn’t even know I considered fireworks to be a sign of hope until I started writing it, but I really didn’t know the side effect of fireworks. Yes, hope for those who don’t suffer PTSD, but when I get into the head of my characters, they tell me their stories. In Transformation Project, a few of my characters have been to war and when one of them said “incoming,” I was struck by what exploding artillery shells over your house roof must do to veterans.

A Timely Prompt

Sometimes a blog prompt will cause me to consider deeper questions than I might otherwise have thought about when writing a scene. This week’s prompt came at a time when I’m already thinking of New Year’s and so, more work for me, but a better book, no doubt.

I wonder what my fellow blog hoppers are thinking.

Posted December 30, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Looking to the Future   3 comments

January 1, 2018 – What are you most looking forward to this coming year?


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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions mainly because I try to avoid lying to myself, so I’m glad to see this different twist on a New Year’s Day blog hop.

Image result for image of new years planningWhat do I look forward to in 2018?

Our daughter claims she is coming to Alaska in her own car with her dog. She’s a bit of a rolling stone – not the dog, our daughter. A gypsy musician who works to support herself in her travels. We miss her A LOT. She’s the sort of person who fills up a house with her personality. She’s been home for visits, but I’m hoping she’ll spend some time on this visit, which won’t be until summer. I’m hoping she’ll decide she’s ready to settle down once she gets here. Time will tell.

Don’t get me wrong. I support her in her endeavors, but I miss her and wish she was within driving distance for a visit.

Beyond that, we’re supposedly FINALLY installing the finished floors in our living room and maybe in the kitchen this year and Brad has agreed to record one of my books for Audacity. Of course, I’ve got several writing projects calling my name and I will have to decide soon whether to return to the fourth book of Transformation Project or stick with the slow going to Fount of Wraiths. Good fantasy takes time and it is going well, but it is not as fast as a Transformation Project book to write. I also have a literary fiction and an alternative history that are both works in progress that I dabble with when I have time. Neither will likely be pushing in 2018, but you never know.

I think those of the top things I’m looking forward to, although I also think tax reform adding a couple of thousand dollars to my family revenue stream this year will allow us to make plans that aren’t even on our radar right now.

But life, as we should all know, is what happens while we’re making other plans, so I won’t get too wedded to these plans because things happen and plans change and that’s part of the adventure of life.

Posted January 1, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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A little delayed on account of technical difficulties, but still worth the visit.

https://aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/breaking-promises/

Posted January 3, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Breaking Promises   4 comments

Blog Topic – New Years resolutions or no? If yes, what are yours? If no, why?

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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions mainly because I don’t like to make promises to myself that I am guaranteed to break. I just think that’s psychologically unhealthy. I don’t know anyone who has ever kept a New Years’s resolution. I know people who have later made good on those resolutions, but not at New Year’s. That includes me. Yes, I have done this myself and then sworn off doing it in the future because it just caused unrealistic expectations and guilty feelings when I failed.

I do use New Year’s to evaluation my previous year and to make plans for my coming year. Those plans are not set in stone. I don’t say “This year I will build a storehouse and put all my surplus in there and then live off my great planning.” That didn’t work out so well for the guy Jesus talked about in the Bible. My plans are more like “If things work out, I’d like to do these things this year and I hope that what comes from it are these benefits.”

Do you see the difference? There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. That’s a good way to live our lives. But resolutions are about promising we’re going to do something, usually something hard, that usually depends on our own self-will.

I don’t make promises to myself that I know I won’t keep. I make plans that are adjustable to the circumstances that come up during the execution.

My plans for this coming year are to help my husband build the cabin and to publish at least one, probably two books and to, hopefully, draft a third one. And there may be an epic canoe trip in Summer 2017.

Posted January 2, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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