The New Year’s Eve Grinch

Dion Chang is over the mania that goes with the last evening of the year

If you’ve seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas, you’ll have no trouble imagining my alter ego: the New Year’s Eve Grinch.

I’m a bit like Scrooge (from the fable A Christmas Carol) at this time of year, except my “Bah, Humbug!” expletives are not aimed at Christmas, but that dreaded evening, New Year’s Eve.

Most of you reading this are probably shaking your heads and making “tut, tut” noises while thinking: who could possibly not like New Year’s Eve?

You probably have your party outfit styled up, ready and waiting for tomorrow evening’s big celebration. Your fridges are no doubt packed with party food and whatever liquor you intend to overindulge in.

The non-pet owners have their arsenal of fireworks poised and ready, while the forward thinkers have, in all likelihood, already assembled “the morning after” survival kits.

All that stands between now and the countdown to tomorrow evening’s midnight hour is an intolerable period of anticipation. And that’s my problem.

The reason I became the New Year’s Eve Grinch is this all-consuming pressure to have “the most awesome New Year’s Eve party ever!” year after year.

I call it Irrational New Year’s Eve Pressure, or INYEP, and it inevitably serves as a catalyst to a perfect emotional storm.

Every year we greet the festive season tired and exhausted, so we overeat at Christmas (because we deserve it) and in many cases, I get a chance to pick at emotional scabs when extended family members are faced with enforced conviviality.

It’s no surprise then that we throw all logic and decorum out the window a few days later when we celebrate a calendar page being flipped.

In essence, what we don’t realise is that underneath it all, we’re somewhat emotionally unstable come December 31, which is why INYEP inevitably leads to ugly squabbles between couples or friends.

I have seen it enough times to know that INYEP creates a volatile and destructive force rather than the joyous one it is meant to be.

These skirmishes usually break out about five to 10 minutes before everyone starts a drunken countdown to midnight and ensure that the squabblers in question are usually screaming at each other while everyone goes ballistic around them, or they enter a frosty, no-speak, parallel universe as the clock strikes 12.

The emotional damage that this causes for the squabbling parties is of course enormous. The symbolism associated with ushering in the New Year is so loaded.

Many people see the crossing into January as a bellwether of how the rest of their year is going to play out – which of course is irrational, but no one is quite rational on New Year’s Eve.

These arguments usually play themselves out at public venues, providing an unsettling dovetailing of drunk and disorderly group hugs, and frigid, stare-into-the-distance silence from warring couples. It’s not my idea of fun.

So cured of public celebrations, I have stuck to gatherings with close family and friends in the past few years, which has proved to be far more intimate and enjoyable.

However, since we live in a digital age, social media platforms have provided another stressful layer to INYEP: the dreaded instant message avalanche.

Everyone now tries to SMS, WhatsApp, BBM or tweet their New Year’s message to friends and followers at the stroke of midnight hour.

If the servers don’t crash, this ensures you receive a flood of instant messaging from a wider circle of colleagues and acquaintances who you wouldn’t normally spend time celebrating with, or want to: nice sentiment, nightmare logistics.

What happens is that everyone begins typing madly on his or her phone 10 minutes before midnight.

If you don’t respond with your own cheerfully optimistic message, someone is bound to get miffed.

They’re either drunk and emotional, or fuming and in need of support, or just a high-maintenance friend you’ve specifically chosen to avoid at times like these.

Now the problem with everyone desperately trying to send and respond to their messages is that you inevitably ignore the people you specifically chose to celebrate the moment with, which is a bit pointless.

To pre-empt the midnight rush, people have now started firing off group messages during the day and send out a generic message that is as intimate and heartfelt as advertising spam.

You may of course be in the lucky minority who are able to sing “Kumbaya” with your loved ones at the stroke of midnight and dispense pressure-appropriate hugs in a meaningful way, but the Grinch in me remains sceptical that your type exists.

It’s not that I won’t be celebrating; it’s just that I’m going to try doing it the old-fashioned way: hugging the people I really love, who are in front of me, when it matters most. As for the rest of you,

I wish you “the most awesome New Year’s Eve party ever!”

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends.

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