What is wrong with wishing people a Happy New Year?
Every year at Christmas/New Year time, we send off a greetings card to all our friends and relations and in the envelope we include a “family newsletter” ‒‒ a recto/verso page describing what everyone has been doing throughout the past twelve months. This observation calls for two comments.
First, among the hundreds of people we know, there are only two other families who do the same thing. This means that the vast majority of the people who send us Christmas and New Year greetings, simply sign their names under the ritual printed message ‒‒ and call it a day. Although I am sure that they do not wish to be mean, I feel somewhat insulted that they do not feel called upon to provide any information or news about their lives. I open the envelope, take out the card, read the names ‒‒ and then nothing. What is the purpose? Why do they bother? Are their lives really without any interest at all? Are they ashamed to reveal that they have done nothing all year? Or is it discretion? What they do in their lives in nobody’s business but their own. Do they think I am not interested ‒‒ when I am?
The second thing I have to say is that, while several of our friends have told us that they look forward to receiving our family newsletter and appreciate reading it, there may be another point of view. Although we try to make what we write as interesting as possible, some people pour scorn and derision on our “pitiful pretension” in thinking that they care one jot for our “miserable lives”. If they do not like to read about us (just like turning the television off) they may simply throw the paper in the rubbish bin ‒‒ we do not mind. They say that the epoch when people included family newsletters in their Christmas/New Year greetings cards is long gone. But how do they know and what did they replace it with? Perhaps they did not replace it with anything.
“It’s amazing,” a colleague said, making reference to a newspaper article in one of the serious French magazines saying that many employees found it annoying to wish their bosses and colleagues a Happy New Year! Amazing, but nevertheless true if you believe what is written in the press.
So what is wrong with wishing people a Happy New Year? What is wrong with an obligation to be nice, courteous, polite? I did not realize it was so hard for others to be agreeable to one another. “Perhaps it’s only selfishness that prevails in our society today,” my colleague added.
This year, as in the past, people will send off millions of text messages, quickly and impersonally, while only a few had time to sit down and write seasonal greeting cards, as was the custom not so long ago. The reasons are numerous, but nobody could say that it’s a lack of time. It’s rather a lack of interest, or simply that Christmas and New Year celebrations have lost much of their significance.
Another colleague said: “I prefer to sit in front of my TV on New Year’s Eve than to be at a boring party, where we sit and eat, and just wait for the New Year to arrive.” She was definitely not the only one who had these sentiments.
Our world has indeed changed a lot over recent decades. Life has become much tougher, competition is on the rise, globalization has spread, and yet there should be a place for the human being ― the individual. Where is the place of the human being, the individual in our modern society? One can only wonder. How many people do you meet with a smile on their face, or seem to be happy? Perhaps it’s due to the winter, but nevertheless one can only ask ‒‒ what is wrong?
Have people forgotten to have a good time, laugh and just enjoy themselves? One can simply wonder? Have our rich societies become so materialistic and consumer-oriented that all we think about is money, new cars and gadgets, so that we tend to forget the most important thing ― life and to take advantage of what life has to offer, without bothering too much about the rest?