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The Evening of the Old Year


In Dutch, December 31 is Old Year’s Day. Its night is not New Year’s Eve, but Old Year’s Eve. It’s not until 12:01 a.m. on January 1 that you wish people a happy/lucky new year. Before then, you hope that they have a good changing of the year.

I didn’t notice that distinction during my first New Year’s here – I was too overwhelmed by the fireworks. There are official fireworks over the IJ, but people set off professional grade fireworks throughout the city all evening, peaking at midnight and tapering off sometime after 1 a.m. It’s hard to think of linguistic nuances when kids in child-sized safety goggles are running into the street to set off mini-explosions as cars and bikes try to avoid them.

This year, however, my partner and I embraced the idea of Old Year’s Eve. We didn’t make resolutions for the year to come or even party intensely to welcome it in. We sat with our pictures, notebooks, Instagram feed, and, yes, a bottle of good wine. We remembered trips that surprised us, sights that amazed us, and stories that made us laugh. We marveled at the luck we’d had and the people we’d met. We didn’t recount our sorrows, but they hung in the air above us, bittersweet and now weightless. By the time we went to the canals to watch our neighbors light up the sky, we’d truly celebrated the year that was ending.

For the first time in my life, I’m starting the new year in knowing gratitude of the one that’s passed. It feels better than any resolution.