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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Saturday, December 31, 2005

out with the old

I'm running out of 2005--although not as much as others around the globe, since anywhere east of about Germany is already in the new year. Vancouver is one of the world's "latest" populated places. So be it: I'm usually the last to accomplish anything.

We'll spend it quietly, as ever. Robin is going out to dinner and on to a house-party; I hear the shower running upstairs as she prepares. But Kimmie and I have not gone out for New Year's in some time. I believe the last time was when we joined her brother's family down at Pasparos Taverna for a Greek dinner, probably before going on to her niece's place to actually usher in the new year. A few years before that we went to Pierre's, a nearby French restaurant (now gone, alas) and had an excellent dinner before being served champagne and party hats for midnight.

Years ago I had a clear memory of exactly how I'd spent every new year's eve from about, well, 1972 on. That ended sometime in the late 1980s, when Kimmie and I were living together and our new years became quiet and indistinguishable. I have spent two new year's eves away from home: in 1978-9 I was with Tim in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, fighting to stay awake till midnight in our 1970 Volkswagen Westfalia, possibly even having some Spanish sparkling wine to celebrate. The ships in the harbor all blasted their horns at the stroke of midnight, just as they do here in Vancouver. In 1981-2 I was in Tel Aviv, Israel, and by chance was invited to a private party by a girl who ran a snack bar where I'd had lunch. I was delighted, since my fellow hostel-dwellers were stuck at the hostel with each other. I brought in 1982 dancing and swigging scotch in an apartment somewhere off the beach. The hostess paid me the compliment of appearing at midnight to give me a kiss to bring in the new year. Wow!

I have long been interested in the symbolism of the new year, and indeed, in my earlier (unpublished) novel, Truth of the Python, the story opens on New Year's Eve, 1990, which was also a full moon (I made it into a lunar eclipse as well). Mircea Eliade discusses the symbolism of the ancient new year, as exemplified in the great festival in Babylon, in The Myth of the Eternal Return. The end of the year was the destruction of profane time and the elimination of the accumulated sins of society for the past year. The initiation of the new year was a rebirth of society, when all its citizens and institutions would start afresh, stamped out anew from their pristine cosmic models. In ancient Rome it was the Saturnalia, festival of the winter solstice, in which public gambling was permitted and masters served their slaves--an inversion of society to show that it had become scrambled, chaotic, and ready for rebirth. This myth still underlies our modern new year's parties (decadent, chaotic) and our custom of new year's resolutions: leaving one's sins behind and starting afresh as a new person.

Tonight Kimmie is making seafood chowder as a treat, and we'll watch the next installment of Paul's Rom-Com Festival: Bridget Jones's Diary with Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and Colin Firth.

But first: I'll build a fire, drink some tea, and do some reading. Now that's what I call fun.

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  • Happy New Year.

    Here some old beliefs come in, too. The days between Christmas and New Years Eve are the days when the gates to other worlds are open and the Wild Hunt will haunt the night.

    Better stay inside after darkness. *grin*

    By Blogger Gabriele C., at January 01, 2006 11:33 AM  

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