Down the Road a Piece

By MILT GROSS | Dec 30, 2013

A New Year

Happy New Year!

Most of us say that every December 31 and January 1. It’s kind of a cult, a time when we humans grab onto our sentimentalism and hope for better times ahead.

I don’t blame us for our optimism for the future. The present is seldom easy, and the past year for most of us was a grab bag of good and not so good. For too many in the Middle East and Africa, it was awful!

2014 will be better, of course, for all of us -- well, many of us, so we’ll hopefully shout, “Happy New Year.”

I remember all that shouting from when I was a kid. I also remember my mother banging on a metal dishpan. Lots of noise and fun.

Then things went on as if there hadn’t been a new year. Which I guess is about how it is today for most of us. (Except we don’t have a metal dishpan.)

Of course, new year celebrations are pretty old. Not as old as the hills, but, Wikepedia states, “Romans originally dedicated New Year's Day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings for whom the first month of the year (January) is named. Later, as a date in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom,  New Year's Day liturgically marked the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, and is still observed as such in the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church in present day....New Year's Day is probably the world's most celebrated public holiday, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts in each time zone.”

In recent years, Dolores and I don’t quite make it to midnight. We say it quietly as we climb into bed around 10 p.m. Happily, the actual midnight always seems to arrive and pass without our help -- unless our sleep sounds count as celebration noises.

Also according to Wikepedia, “Among the 7th century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts at the New Year. (My note: wouldn’t corporate America love that...a second like-Christmas selling spree!) This was a pagan custom deplored by Saint Eliguis (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemings and Dutchmen, ‘(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].’ The quote is from the vita of Eligius written by his companion, Quen.”

So, it is with a long tradition behind us that Dolores and I wish you, a Happy Ne -- hey, wait a minute! The god of gates and doors? I know lots of folk drink too much on New Year’s Eve, but the god of gates and doors?

Those Romans, who named that god, must have been drinking way too much while they were shouting, “Happy New Year”  to the god of gates and doors.

Of course, they didn’t have metal dishpans. If they had had them, would the god Janus also be the god of metal dishpans?

Happy New Year, god of metal dishpans and gates and doors.

And Happy New Year to you who took part of this old year to read this!

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross copyright 2013

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