By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident
There’s no doubt about it. Fireworks are a big hit on January 1st. The arrival of a new year heralds well wishes across the planet and extravagant light displays in some of its wealthier cities.
A golden waterfall cascading from Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge as the finale to a 12 minute display. Blue lights bursting from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper. Starbursts shooting from the London Eye, Europe’s largest observation wheel. Hundreds of tiny drone lights working their techno-magic in the night sky above Singapore. Significant amounts of money spent on spectacular once-a-year displays. Yes, humans like a good light show.
I saw in the New Year at home, sharing the anticipation and countdown with family. We watched fireworks displays on YouTube, talked about our plans for the next day and texted family in Australia who were already 18 hours into 2023. Not all of us made it to midnight – young grandkids snoozing in their cots, tired parents catching up on sleep. At the stroke of twelve, when British Columbia dove into 2023, we moved onto the deck and watched our own valley’s light show kick into action.
Visible from my West Creston home were fireworks shooting from properties in Wynndel and the west side of Arrow Creek. A few homes near Crusher Road and east of the mall added to the festivities with light displays of their own. Canyon and Lister weren’t visible, but we presumed a few enthusiastic residents in those rural communities were doing their bit to add to the midnight celebration.
Humans, it appears, love rituals and celebrations. Birthdays and anniversaries, weddings and graduations, Halloween and Valentine’s Day. Not to mention the customs around religious and national holidays. But not everyone is enthusiastic about the celebration of a new year. As some on social media commented: Another year; big deal. Why all the fuss?
Seconds, hours, and days. Months and years. It can certainly be argued that the measurement of time is arbitrary, a number system created to bring shape to a very abstract concept. But it’s also a fact that our planet – like others in our solar system – follows a set orbit in its journey around the sun. And every 365 revolutions or days our dear home completes one orbit. The cycle of seasons repeats again. Spring, summer, fall, winter. In what we call one year, our beautiful blue planet completes one orbit in its remarkable journey through space and heads off again for another big turn around the sun.
But is this why Earthlings celebrate? Is this the reason for all those parties, hangovers, fireworks, and resolutions? A yearly orbit, like a daily sunrise or the arrival of spring, is a sign of nature’s grand cycle. And for many that’s a symbol of renewal. An opportunity for a fresh start.
In my January 1st, stay-up-late, feel-a-little-silly frame of mind, I imagined what new year might look like on our sister planets if they too were inhabited by life forms with our social tendencies.
It would certainly be a big deal for the Neptunians, coming as infrequently as 165 Earth years. And might beings on that eighth rock from the sun live long enough to ring in the new year? Could be a dull place to live.
And what of our cousins on the planet closet to our sun – the Mercurians, or should that be Merclings? Four times as many new year celebrations as Earthlings, with an orbit of only 88 Earth days. Party central!
But I digress.
I figure there’s more than enough trouble in our world these days as we don’t need to look far to find conflict, hardship, or distress. But our world also contains beauty and the potential for joy. Family and friends, the warmth of community spirit and shared celebrations.
This new year, like so many others, saw billions of humans counting down, watching the clock, and sharing well wishes. Hundreds of thousands stood outside, looking up at the night sky, smiling and pointing, oohing and aahing in unison. Whatever the reason, it was a sign of sharing and hope.
Happy New Earth Orbit everyone!