Friday, January 01, 2010

Old Year's Night

Welcome to 2010 - your flying car is in the driveway. Quick, go get it, before it gets recalled and hauled away by the black helicopters.

I could just replay the entry from January 1, 2009. We held an open house/gaming day at Grubb Street, a 12-hour celebration of games and conviviality. A lot of games, old and new were played, champagne was imbibed and very smokey whiskey was sipped (who knew whiskey had umami?), and there was a plethora of snackage. I'd say my fave game this year was Alhambra, which I got the Lovely Bride for Christmas. Now the LB and I are recovering, delighted in the fact that we had a good evening with friends and the house is (mostly) still clean.

Modern holidays are always strange, because if you look at them hard enough, there is a Lovecraftian weirdness to their history, the recognition that dark shapes from the past lurk just beneath the surface. The popular history puts the selection 1 Jan as the start of the year back into the days of the Roman Republic. It was earlier 25 March or so (near Spring equinox), but was shifted to 1 January because that is when the rulers took office. Yeah, we have 1 January as the start of the new year because it made the bureaucracy work better. Anyone whose company talks about fiscal years versus calender years knows the strangeness that results. 1 January standardized in the West with the Gregorian Calender in the 16th Century, at which time 10-14 days suddenly vanished for a lot of the locals. And Greg's calender is artifice, a scaffolding erected over the previous system to make the feast days work out.

The end of the year as party and celebration was frowned on by the Middle Ages church, who saw paganism in the giving of gifts (St. Eligius got all bent out of shape about it). Indeed, for many years 1 Jan was noted as the Feast of the Circumcision, which was changed to the Octave of the Nativity when too many of the locals couldn't get their minds out of the gutter (Now it is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, which by name indicates that there is not going to be any clowning around here). The entire full-fledged debauch, followed by resolutions and declarations that everything will be different, an almost mini-Mardis Gras feeling, is a very 20th Cent American thing.

I look forward to the next decade with hope. The first years of this century have been a decade of cowardice, when a very bad thing happened to our country, and we proceeded to throw all the ideals we supposedly held dear away on the promise that it wouldn't happen again. Future historians will try to encapsulate this time, define its boundaries, and show that it was, like the First Age of American Imperialism or the Red Scare, a time when we as a people lost our heads a little bit, but we are much better now. It will be untrue, of course, and we will be just as vulnerable to the madness that consumed us. Indeed the same scoundrels who thrived and profited on panic nine years ago are actively seeking to breed further fear now, and indignant that we are hesitant to dance to their tune.

We can be better, and with the new decade, we should. More later,