Growing up, we had a family tradition of putting the Times Square ball-dropping ceremonies on our living room TV so we could count down the minutes until the new year. This was kind of contrived, since we lived in California and by the time the ball dropped, it was only 9 PM. Still, the time difference gave me three hours to carefully strategize exactly how to make the next year the best year of my life.
I've always loved New Year's. I love making resolutions that I know won't last, clinking glasses with cheap knockoff champagne inside, and wearing those chintzy plastic sunglasses with numbers of the year shaped into the eye holes. There's no other holiday with less pretense than this one. And yet New Year's has got a bad rap. I brought it up to a friend recently, who said, "Ugh, I hate New Year's," before rattling off a list of legitimate reasons it's the worst invented holiday of all time: It's expensive, it's glittery, there's an incessant need to do something cool for the sake of appearances, and Uber surge-pricing will leave you broke for the rest of the year. "God, isn't it the worst?"
No, it's not. New Year's might be flawed, but it's still my favorite holiday. Here's why.
New Year's Resolutions
I make resolutions every year, and they're usually pretty lofty. I'll learn a new language! I'll go gluten free! I'll start running every morning! I'll start volunteering at an animal shelter! Saying these things out loud—better yet, saying these things to the drunk person next to me at the bar—makes me feel infinitely better about myself. I don't think I've ever stuck to a resolution for more than a few months, let alone remembered it by the end of the year. (The sole exception is this past year, when I resolved to stop being such a bitch to my boyfriend. We moved in together in June, so that resolution was either a spectacular success or a real failure, depending on your perspective.) But it doesn't matter that these resolutions unravel so quickly. All that matters is that on New Year's Eve, and if only for a few days after, I feel like a new person.
New Year's resolutions give me the same kind of joy as sitting in Barnes and Noble's self-help section and fantasizing about future-me. It's a short-lived feeling, but for this one night of the year, my self-esteem has never been higher.
The festivities that go along with New Year's are like a foil to my resolutions: I'll decide that I'm going on a diet in the new year, and then I'll swallow six jello shots. There's a sense of urgency in indulging in my vices, since I've solemnly resolved not to do these things again for the next 365 days. (Not that those resolutions last, but you know, it's the thought that counts.) The evening of New Year's is the closest thing to returning to college, when getting blotto drunk is totally kosher. Plus, since everyone has New Year's Day off from work, it won't matter what your hangover is like tomorrow.
The Anatomy of a New Year's Party
Unlike most nationally-celebrated holidays, there is no predetermined structure for a New Year's party. As long as you're up and at 'em when the clock strikes twelve, you've pretty much done your job in fulfilling tradition. Some of my favorite New Year's were the ones right before I turned 21—when I was old enough to drink but not old enough to do it legally—when someone would invite a few people over to their house and we'd all sip Andre out of plastic cups and play Cards Against Humanity. Those kinds of New Year's weren't altogether much different from what my friends and I would normally do together, except for the addition of party-poppers hanging out of our mouths and plastic hats on our heads. But it was more fun, somehow, because it was New Year's.
To say that you "hate New Year's parties" is like saying that you hate watching movies—it doesn't make sense, because New Year's parties come in all variations. They can be whatever you want them to be, whether it's getting bottle service at a trendy club or staying home with a group of friends (or, fine, staying in bed). It's also the only time of the year when you can really dress however you want—in head-to-toe sparkles, in a spandex jumpsuit, even in your birthday suit—and no one really cares.
Being Nicer Than Normal
Sort of like my short-lived New Year's resolutions, I have a penchant for making plans with people that I have no intention to follow through on. Normally, I take great pains to avoid acquaintances at parties, because I hate making small talk and "catching up" and making plans to hang out. But on New Year's, nothing delights me more.
I'm also generally adverse to chatting up strangers, unless I'm trying to get free drinks at a bar, but on New Year's, it always feels like the right thing to do. I've heard of lots of people doing this for the sake of scoring a New Year's kiss, but for me, it always happens long before that. Maybe it's because I'm often very drunk, or maybe it's because everyone else is drunk, but I get really friendly on New Year's. I've met some weird people in New Year's past, and I always come home with a bunch of unrecognizable names and numbers stored in my phone. One year, when I spent the holiday in New York City, I shared a cab going uptown with a perfect stranger at 3 AM—not something I would've done any other day of the year. There's nothing like overpriced transportation to bring people together.
It Feels Like the End of the World
New Year's has that YOLO quality to it—it's now or never, bitches!—which only made sense on New Year's Eve 1999, when people were legitimately concerned that the world would end with the turn of the millennium. But the sense that you're invincible on New Year's, for better or for worse, makes the whole night magical.
And you know what? Even if the magic only lasts for one day, when I'm buzzed off cheap champagne and high on ambition, it might be the best I feel all year.
Arielle Pardes will be ringing in the new year wearing a skirt set printed in Emojis and resolving to go gluten-free. Follow her on Twitter.