Welcome to the new year!
I hope everyone had something fun or exciting or heartwarming over the holiday season — which is also the time when the Northern Hemisphere meets and endures its longest night of the year and begins to slowly spin back towards warmth and light. For me, I had a few highlights throughout the holidays, but the best part by far was my NYE party.
We had a fluctuating number as some had to leave early and others came late, but I think all told we had 14-16 people in the house eating dessert, exchanging gifts, and playing games to bid GOODBYE WE WILL NOT MISS YOU to 2017 and SOME IMPROVEMENT WOULD BE GOOD HERE 2018. Which we did with the use of fire. And piñatas.
I bought a pair of piñatas, a 1 and a 7. Throughout the party, people wrote things on slips of paper and notecards and whatever else they chose — things they wanted to banish, things they wanted to release, things they wished to leave behind — and stuffed them in the piñatas. People wrote lists, or the same grievance over and over, and I think at least one person fed an angry word in letter by letter. We even took “orders” from our cousin party being held by some friends a few states away.
And at midnight, we took the piñatas outside in the -15 degree weather or whatever it was, and burned them to ashes.
It’s very therapeutic. To take the frustrations and fears of the year that was and to let them go, to watch them be unmade and cast into the midnight sky. To set down the burdens of one year and feel them melt from the shoulders — only to make room to carry new weight in the days and weeks to come, probably. But it’s nice. It’s not spectacular, and it’s not super dramatic, but it feels good to watch those feelings and experiences and shadows burn.
Maybe next year, if it isn’t -15 degrees, we’ll do a bigger fire and toast marshmallows. That seems fair, right?
Personally, I’m still lobbying for a green or purple fire, too, but that’s tougher. Luckily we have a designated friend-as-fire-marshal, and he handles that complicated stuff. I just provide the piñatas and the backyard.
The thing about our NYE party is that it has evolved over the years. A decade ago, it would be just Sarah and I and a friend some years, watching movies all night. Then we started to gather with greater numbers of people, to make it more of an event. In the last few, it’s become an all-out party which doubles as the friends gift-giving celebration for those who attend. For the last 2 years, I’ve added an element of Christmas stockings.
Which is to say, for every person who comes to the party (or who is connected to this friends-family in some way), I make them a stocking. A few people have real ones we hang on the mantle — those are the people who look to me and my house as their alternate home. But for everyone there is a bag of candy and an orange and some nuts (the latter 2 from German tradition) and something else. This year, I gave people CDs.
Half the friends-family got funny CDs of, well, this.
The other half got a CD mix I made.
I know, I know, that’s so 2003. Whatever. It seems silly to buy flash drives to hand out 17 songs as a playlist, and I just don’t do streaming music yet. If anybody has a better idea, I’ll gladly hear it out. Until then, CDs.
The mix I made for them is one I really like, and it has a lot in it that carried me through last year and will continue to carry me into 2018. I called it “Light in the World” because, at heart, it’s a mix of songs either about the light that is already in the world — love, kindness, courage, honor — or songs about hanging onto and nurturing the light within when such light is needed against a colder world.
In the end, we’re all only what we give to the people in our lives, to the world beyond our immediate circle, and to the future yet to come. And I, as I have said before, intend to give light. And love. And hope.
So here is the mix I made:
The World As I See It by Jason Mraz
Bridge Over Troubled Water by Gregorian
I’ll Be The Light by Colton Dixon
So Alive by The Goo Goo Dolls
Fearless by Kat Perkins
Kinder by Copper Wimmin
Courage (Come Out To Play) by Justin Hines
Say Geronimo by Sheppard
Shatter Me (feat. Lzzy Hale) by Lindsey Stirling
I Am the Fire by Halestorm
The Light by Disturbed
Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself by Jess Glynne
Over and Over by The Goo Goo Dolls
Life is Wonderful by Jason Mraz
Weightless by Courtney Jones
Fly to Paradise by the Eric Whitacre Singers
O Fortuna by Gregorian
You might wonder at that last track. “O Fortuna” is not a song about light, or courage, or standing up against the dark. The Wikipedia translation of it is:
like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing or waning;
hateful life first oppresses
and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power
it melts them like ice.
Fate – monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back to your villainy.
Fate is against me
in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down, always enslaved.
So at this hour, without delay,
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong one,
everyone weep with me!
Not light, right? It’s a lament, a cry for others to see the cruelty that Fate has dealt and sympathize. A testament of injustice and unfairness.
Uplifting? Well, the song itself it, but not in the context of its meaning.
But for me, that’s WHY this song is important in this mix. Because you can have all the courage you want, can be armed with kindness and honor, can breathe light and sing hope through your veins, but eventually random chance and events beyond your control *will* take their toll. You can skip through life on the road of ideals, head full of dreams and optimism, but someday the rocks of reality are going to come down on your head.
What matters is what you do next.
If — and when — Fate strikes down the strong person, what does the strong person do?
What choice do you make?
Do you weep and cry that Fate is unfair? Do you curl up and surrender? Do you blame the unkindness of Fate and petulantly refuse to accept the truth?
Because dark and light cannot exist without one another. Hope doesn’t have power unless it has been born by overcoming despair. Courage cannot be strong unless it is forged in fear. Kindness has no meaning if it is insincere.
“O Fortuna” is the last track on the CD because it leaves the unanswered question for the listener:
In the face of callousness, of despair, of cruelty, will you stand up and be counted amongst the kind, the loving, and the brave?
What will you choose for 2018?