Cold can’t cramp her New Year celebration |

Cold can’t cramp her New Year celebration

The concept of a new year (as in Happy New Year) is an odd phenomenon.

Who decided, for example, that the new year should start in January? Why January? It seems much more logical that the new year start on the first day of spring ” you know, at the beginning of the season of renewal when everything and everyone gets a fresh start at life.

But no. At the end of December, right after coming down from the Christmas high, along comes New Year’s Eve and Day.

New years used to be celebrated on the vernal equinox ” the first day of spring. In fact, thousands of years ago, the Babylonians would celebrate ” not just for an eve and a day ” but for 11 straight days and nights on the first day of spring, making today’s New Year’s celebrations seem amateurish in comparison.

The Romans were the ones who changed the date that we ring in the new year. Because of the way the Roman calendar was set up, it became out of sync with the sun, causing all sorts of confusion with the seasons. So the Roman senate in 153 B.C. established Jan. 1 as the first day of the year.

Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. continued tweaking the calendar when he established the Julian calendar, adding 80 extra days to that year to get everything even.

The western world hadn’t seen the last of the vernal-equinox-as-new-year’s, however. In 567 A.D., long after Julius was gone and buried, the calendar once again started on the first day of spring, and celebrations again lasted, if not 11, then at least a few days.

Pope Gregory XIII put a stop to all the getting-down-and-getting-funky partying in 1582. Claiming that New Year’s celebrations were based on pagan rituals ” a claim that was probably pretty darn accurate ” the Catholic Church banished the fun, changing the date, in western nations at least, to cold, dark Jan. 1 again. It’s been that way since.

As New Year’s Eve recently approached, I thought back to some of my favorites. In all cases, the most memorable New Year’s for me have been ones that I spent outdoors, and not inside a stuffy party with a bunch of drunk, goofy people blowing horns in each other’s ears and wearing too-small paper hats. (I, of course, would be included with that group.)

Instead, I remember a New Year’s we spent riding behind snowmobiles up Aspen Mountain, skiing behind them, water ski style. It was a full moon, a blue moon, and there wasn’t a cloud in the night sky. I skied down Spar Gulch completely alone under that full moon. It was a pretty dangerous, reckless thing to do ” on top of being something I doubt the Aspen Skiing Co. would endorse ” but it was great and a wonderful way to kick off the new year.

Another New Year’s we spent camping in the desert outside Moab. Yes, it was c-c-c-cold, but we built a little fire and gathered around it sitting on camp chairs. I’ll never forget when the clock hit midnight and all around us, coyotes started howling in unison, echoing off the canyon walls.

So for this New Year’s, my husband, Erik, and I bundled up about 20 minutes before midnight, grabbed a couple champagne glasses and a bottle of champagne, and headed out into the cold night air, our dogs following excitedly behind. We tromped across our pasture, while our two mares stood wondering what in the heck we were doing at such a late hour. Big Mare and Mercy followed us for a bit, and we fed them some carrots we had stashed in our pockets.

At the far end of the pasture, we climbed between the fence rails and stationed ourselves on a big log next to some giant old cottonwoods.

Popping the cork and pouring the bubbly in the middle of a snowy field on the outskirts of Rifle was the way Erik and I rang in 2004, while two of the dogs ran lightning-bolt laps around us, and Jo Mama, our golden Lab, sat attentively at our feet, hoping there was some kind of food involved in our toast. (There wasn’t. Oh well, Jo.)

“There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here,” said Erik, toasting the new year, the still night, the Roan Plateau faintly outlined in the distance, and the stars shimmering above.

I couldn’t have said it better.

Happy New Year, everybody.

” Carrie Click is a reporter for the Post Independent.

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