The Irish Times view on celebrating New Years’ Eve: the most divisive seasonal landmark

True New Years refuseniks will have been under the duvet for at least an hour by the time the final bell peals

When researchers from universities including UCD warned recently of the dangers posed by popping corks during the festive season, some readers may have thought to themselves that losing an eye is just one of the potential hazards that await the unwary on New Year’s Eve. Of all seasonal landmarks, December 31st is the most divisive. For some, it represents an opportunity to rise refreshed from post-Christmas slumbers, seeing out the old and ushering in the new with loved ones in an atmosphere of bonhomie and good cheer. But for others, the occasion is irredeemably tinged with melancholy.

And for others again the whole thing is a grim exercise in forced jollity.For them, a night on the couch watching formulaic television celebrations recorded in August provides an appropriately purgatorial experience. Meanwhile, true New Years refuseniks will have been under the duvet for at least an hour by the time the final bell peals.

As midnight sweeps westward from Kiribati to the Sydney Opera House, over the crags of Edinburgh and on to the glass canyon of Times Square, different cultures will find their own ways to express their aspirations and hopes for 2024.

In the Philippines, wearing polka dots guarantees 12 months of good luck. In Greece they hang onions on their front doors to ensure a prosperous new year. In Brazil, wearing red underwear will render you lucky in love, while yellow will bring wealth. In Denmark, people smash plates on their neighbours’ doorsteps. They also jump off chairs at the moment the clock strikes twelve. (One suspects those UCD researchers would like a quiet word with the Danes.)

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However you celebrate (or not), there is still something undeniably significant about this transition from one year to the next that transcends the mathematical banality of flipping to a new numeral. It remains important to wish that fortune should smile on those we love as they set out on a new, uncertain chapter. For that to happen, of course, we must not forget to remind them to check the colour of their underwear.