This is an OWLS post. What is OWLS?
OWLS stands for Otaku Writers for Liberty and Self Respect. We are a group of otaku bloggers who promote acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being.
According to the Lovely Lita who suggested this topic:
We are at the end of the year! YAY! For this month’s topic, we will be discussing what the holidays mean to us. Some of us have a religious perspective on Christmas, while some of us see Christmas as a celebration of family. For this prompt, we will be exploring how the holidays are celebrated around the world using various pop culture media. We will also describe what the holidays mean to us. Happy Holidays! – OWLS Team
Examples – I would like for you to draw on your own experiences when it comes to the holidays.
That’s a pretty tall order! There’s only one holiday left in the year. Happy New Year!
“Holiday” Blog Tour Schedule
12/5: Megan from Nerd Rambles – Confessions of a Scrooge
12/9: Lita from LitaKino Anime Corner – Hot and Cold Christmas
12/14: Aria from The AniManga Spellbook – A Cynic’s Look at Christmas
12/17: Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime – Holidays and Natsumes
12/19: Takuto from Takuto’s Anime Cafe – “Unhauling” for the Holidays: Why I’m Giving, Not Getting
12/27: Jack from Animated Observations – Toradora and Loneliness
12/30: Karandi from 100WordAnime – Keeping in Touch
12/31: Fred from Au Natural – Same Auld Lang Syne – OWLS (That’s me!)
And so begins a new month of OWLS and a new year of blogging!
In 1788 Robert Burns penned what would become his most famous work, Auld Lang Syne. The title may be literally translated in contemporary American English as “old long since” or loosely to “days gone by.” Burns himself indicated that he did not write the song but merely expanded upon an old song he heard from an old man. This is entirely possible as similar poems have been found from as early as the 1600s.
I have added contemporary English translations for some of the more cryptic Scottish terms. The final line of the chorus has morphed from “For auld lang syne” to “For the sake of auld lang syne”. The melody is also from an old Scottish folk song. I do not know if it is the original or something the poem was later set to. Just imagine the thickest Scottish brogue while being sung!
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought tae mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my jo, (jo = dear)
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! (Surely you’ll buy a pint cup!)
And surely I’ll be mine! (And surely I’ll buy mine!)
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes, (We two have run about the hillsides)
And pou’d the gowans fine; (And picked the daisies fine.)
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, (But we’ve wandered many a weary foot.)
Since auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn, (We two have paddled in the stream,)
Frae morning sun till dine; (From dawn ’till dinner:)
But seas between us braid hae roar’d (But seas between us broad have roared)
Sin’ auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! (And there’s my hand, my trusty friend!)
And gie’s a hand o’ thine! (And give me a hand of thine!)
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught, (And we’ll take a right good-will draught,)
For auld lang syne.
Credit for the lyrics go to RobertBurns.org.
Two friends who frolicked and played in the highlands of Scotland went their separate ways across the world. They meet again and drink a toast for old time’s sake. This simple story has become the most important commemoration of time’s passing and looking forward to the new year.
Few know anything but the first verse and the chorus. (Reminds me a bit of the US National Anthem in that way.) Many subtle differences in wording between performances can be found, even within Scottish dialect performers. Versions exist in most languages on Earth. It is sung at many other significant events such as marriages and graduations. It was even sung at the concluding ceremonies of Boy Scout jamborees. But ushering out the old and heralding in the New Year is it’s greatest currency.
This performance of Auld Lang Syne is magnificent! The video catches the spirit perfectly. It can bring me to tears.
Memory fades. The arrow of time continues on its immutable journey. Some day we will be gone and eventually forgotten along with all of our experience of joy and sorrow and pain and pleasure. So let us raise a toast to the memories we have, our hopes for the future and the lives we are living right now. For someday, auld lang syne will be indeed be forgot when we are no longer here to remember them.
One of my all-time favorite anime is 3 Gatsu No Lion which roughly translates into March Comes in Like a Lion. It is unusual in that when I first tried it, the initial episodes were so depressing I couldn’t continue it. Thanks to the glowing reviews by all the anime bloggers here, I took it up again and made it thru to the good stuff. There are individual episodes that are among the finest ever made in all of anime.
3 Gatsu is about a lonely boy, Rei. His own family died and he was adopted by a friend of his father who was a Shogi fanatic. His childhood was rough. He was a genius at Shogi, so much so it caused his adopted father to neglect his other children. A fantastic amount of resentment developed at home among his adopted siblings who could not compete. This was internalized as self-rejection and depression.
At school, Rei is an almost textbook case of Asperger’s syndrome. He lacks social skills. He lacks physical ability. He is bullied and teased. He is an alien in a world he doesn’t understand and which isn’t interested in understanding him. There is one place in the world he feels at home and that is at a shogi board. He is so good at it he is able to turn pro in middle school and live on his own, away from the strife at home.
He lives alone in a barren apartment eating junk. One day he is taken (underage) to a bar by older friends who were not friends. They got him drunk, spent all his money and then abandoned him in the cold. Akari Kawamoto, a cocktail hostess, discovers him huddled against the wall outside and takes the boy in. Her family is loving and warm. And so begins a new chapter in an otherwise miserable life.
One of my favorite episodes of the series is the New Year’s episode.
Rei begins the episode and New Year’s Eve in bed with a cold. Now, you or I catch a cold and we’ll swallow a bunch of DayQuil and soldier on. This is an anime cold. It is just shy of an existential threat.
Rei holes up in his apartment in bed for three days, not eating, ignoring the mail, ignoring the long-dead cell phone and trying to ignore the sudden pounding and calling at his door. It is Akari with her sisters, Chiaki and Momo. They’d called, got worried at his lack of response, came to investigate. They drag his butt out of there and get it diagnosed as a cold and not the even more deadly flu.
Does nobody get flu shots in Japan?
Next, they bring him over to their place to take care of. He is fed, medicated and sent to bed. He has a strange dream, a memory of being scolded as a child for putting stickers on his dresser as his mother angrily peeled them off. Then, just before midnight, Akari wakes him up. Time for some food and more medication. And maybe not to be so alone on this particular night.
This is a low key New Year’s celebration. Everyone else is asleep. The television is shown broadcasting a traditional New Year’s program, Kohaku Uta Gassen, very much like Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in America. It will feature a pair of famous singers, Aiko and Ishikawa Sayuri and there will be teams contesting in a sing-off. You can even see the network, NHK, in the banner.
A Buddhist gong will be rung 108 times to dispell any bad feeling from the old year and Kohaku will end just before the final gong.
Neither character’s recent past has been particularly good. I’ve already discussed Rei. Akari’s father ran off without a word. Her mother and grandmother are dead. Both characters are wrapped up in sad memories. That is one of the lessons of New Year’s, as the Roman god Janus looks to the past, memories of pain can overwhelm his other function, looking to the future.
Akari asks Rei if anyone had called while he was sick. Rei indicated that it would be doubtful. Akaru grabs his cell phone and puts it on to charge and soon he can see numerous calls from his adoptive father that failed to come thru.
Rei returns the call to discover his father was indeed worried about his well being. He’d been too wrapped up in his own issues to think about him. That’s another common problem during the holidays. One can become so self-involved with personal issues we may forget about others who worry about us.
He then thanks Akari for bringing him over on the holiday, saying that she saved him. Rei responds by saying she had wanted him over and that he’d saved her. Otherwise, there would be nothing for her to do but to clean up for the evening and cry.
Rei realized now that his own loneliness had blinded him to the loneliness of others. Both start to tear up.
Which brings up a final lesson. The best medicine for feeling lonely can be to seek out other people who are lonely. There are plenty of them out there. Two lonely people who accept the validity of each other’s pain can help each other to a better place, even if all you do is feed the homeless on skid row. Think about that the next time a holiday looms ahead and you have no one to celebrate with.
The next day comes in bright and new. People flying kites and New Year’s Day postcards being delivered. (That’s a surprise to me since I would have assumed as an American that mail delivery would have been suspended on a holiday.) All of the Kawamoto family receives a share of cards.
Chiaki wonders if Rei had gotten any and over his half-hearted objection she runs over to collect them. On her return, she is unhappy that he only got two cards, thinking that so few would make him sad. Actually, it cheers him up because two cards were actually two more than he thought he’d get. One was from his friend and shogi nemesis, Harunobu Nikaidou, about the great vacation he was on. The other was from the chair of the shogi club sport fishing.
Aunt Misaki shows up, full of good cheer and energy. She pays her respect to the household shrine for her departed mother and sister and hands out gifts to everyone, including Rei.
Just before the end, we flash back to Rei waking up that morning., Rei notices stickers applied to a dresser drawer in the room where he slept. Stickers that were not peeled off with a stern scolding but left in place as a sign of love for the child who placed them. He realizes this is the house of warmth and the family he needs right now.
And a New Year begins with a bit of energy and optimism.
Janus (pronounced Jay-nus) was the Roman god of beginnings and passages, of changes and time. He is specific to the Roman pantheon. The Greeks had no parallel god as they did with most other Roman Deities. Conventional wisdom has it that the month of January was named after him. Mensis Ianuarius means literally the month of January, altho there is evidence that farmers considered Juno the goddess of the month.
January wasn’t the first month of the Roman year until a reorganization around 450 BCE. Before then it had been March, the month of Mars. Janus is always depicted with two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. Sometimes both faces would be old and other times one would be the face of a beardless youth. His temple would consist of an enclosed area with two opposite gates. Traditionally, they would be open during times of war and closed in peace. (They were rarely closed.)
Ancient Mesopotamia had New Year’s in mid-March. The Egyptians, Persians and many other mid-eastern countries had it on the fall equinox while the Greeks had it on the winter solstice.
Julius Ceasar implemented the Julian calendar which was designed by Greek mathematicians. New Year’s was now January 13. Along came the medieval Christians who changed it again to the end of March. Then the Gregorian calendar moved it to January 1st, where it finally stuck in the West. (William the Conquerer had earlier set that day as New Year in Britain, claiming it was the day Jesus was circumcised, but it didn’t last.)
It is thought that people who didn’t catch on to the change were considered fools and had nasty tricks played on them, hence we have April Fools Day on April 1st. There might also be a connection to a Roman festival of Hilaria on March 25. That’s just hilarious!
If you are Jewish, New Year’s is in September with Rosh Hashanah. It begins ten days of introspection which culminates on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. The two are the highest of holy days in Judaism. Because Judaism uses a lunar year which is 12 complete lunar cycles of about 29.5 days each, (354 days total) its holidays do not happen on the same day each Gregorian year. Every 2 or 3 years a “leap month” gets inserted to keep it somewhat in step with the solar year which is 365 days.
The outgoing year is an aged man about to clock out for the very last time. The incoming year is an infant about to clock in for the very first time. We look to our past, lest we forget our auld lang syne and make resolutions for the upcoming year. A time to consider the old and start anew. The actual celebration starts on New Year’s Eve with parties that range from the solemn to outright Bacchanalias.
New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a joyous occasion with parties and camaraderie, gatherings and fireworks and a crystal ball lowering as the year fades out. The next day is a host of football games and parades. It can also be a time of solemnity and self-critiquing, full of the intimations of mortality. Time’s arrow flies ever onward and each day brings us that much closer to our end, just as the past year came to its end.
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
While we remember the past, consider why we bother remembering it. The best of all possible reasons is to draw joy and strength from all the things that happened. Old friends and new – and bad influences gotten rid of. Accomplishments as well as good efforts that didn’t quite get there. Good fortune – or making the best of bad fortune. Good times or bad times you fought your way through. Mistakes to avoid in the future to make it brighter. And all those resolutions you’re going to enjoy breaking.
Another song appropriate to the passing of time and the New Year:
Every time I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away
Dream on. Dream until your dream comes true.
Happy New Year to all my followers. You are precious to me.
With very little conscious effort my blog has hit 200 followers! I hope your Christmases were bright as well.
To all those who are younger than I, you have your life ahead of you. Enjoy it. Find your passion and immerse yourself, damn it! Piss on anyone who disses you for it.
To all those my age or older: You’re not dead yet! Live a little. You will regret your passivity (may regret it already) so don’t stay f***ing passive. Get out there and at least act like you are young at heart. Piss on anyone who disses you for it.
Am I being clear here?
IMHO, the very best modern New Year’s song.