This article was originally published in The Courier on 31st January 2013.
If there's one thing the bitterest of enemies can secretly agree on, it's this: Hogmanay is the coldest time of the year.
Supposedly a time for celebration, in which we bid farewell to the year departed and anoint the head of the days anew, in reality it's a hollow festival of unnatural optimism and desperate, drunken delusion during which we're expected to sup from a goblet of universal harmony with people we'd quite happily avoid in our normal daily lives.
That probably sounds needlessly misanthropic and excessive. But let me assure you, I'm not being contrary for the sake of it. This isn't an affected blast of “bah humbug” rebellion. I've genuinely never enjoyed Hogmanay, and I know I'm not alone. Every year I recognise kindred spirits in the haunted stares of fellow unwitting revellers, as we wander the streets like lost survivors of nuclear Armageddon. We want the nightmare to be over. We want to go home. We want our lives back.
So let's raise a glass to those of us who shudder at the prospect of a miserable party followed by an endless, frostbitten walk home at 2AM when taxis are rarer and marginally less expensive than the lost riches of Atlantis.
It's nothing to do with getting older. I've always felt this way. My dislike of Hogmanay took root in childhood, when it beheld a monstrous significance as the official end of Christmas – that magical, wondrous time! - and the looming harbinger of school-based drudgery. Adolescence and adulthood merely confirmed it as a period of weird, desolate limbo, where Christmas had vanished for another year, yet people still sank themselves into oblivion to avoid facing up to the future.
Now, I enjoy a drink as much as the next man, but I've always been fiercely opposed to the oppressive bulwark of enforced fun. And at no time of year is that regime more in force than at Hogmanay. Shouldn't we have fun on our own terms, at our own pace and leisure? Isn't that what fun is all about? Why should we be expected to gather at midnight on January 31st to toast the fact that we've survived life on Earth for another year?
Rather than fill me with joy and optimism for the future, it's a melancholy reminder that life is short. And how are you spending it, this rare, precious gift of existence? Standing outside a packed pub on a freezing winter night, trying to avoid conversation with well-meaning strangers and wishing you were somewhere else.
To which you might reasonably respond: cheer up, you miserable sod! And you'd be right. I suppose. But I'm actually quite happy in my alienated state at this time of year. After all, it's only one annual night of brutal endurance. We anti-Hogmanay types will never enjoy it. But we'll get over it. We'll be fine.
Happy new year!