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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Why this UAE writer is boycotting New Year's Eve

December 31 celebrations are bereft of meaning, so I plan to stay home that night, says Saeed Saeed

Fireworks usher in the New Year at Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Fireworks usher in the New Year at Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

New Year’s Eve is around the corner, but my friends know better than to invite me to any of their shindigs. I am a relatively sanguine presence at a normal get together, but put me in a social situation that I feel is contrived, and my eyes glaze over.

No event is more make-believe than a New Year’s Eve celebration. Everything about it makes my eye twitch: there is the fake anticipation, the planning of which eye-wateringly expensive parties to attend, the transport logistics and, of course, all those New Year GIFs that invade my mobile phone once midnight strikes.

It all makes me rather exhausted, which is why, unless I am working on NYE, I normally call it a night by 10.30pm.

My apathy for such a celebration probably stems back to growing up in Abu Dhabi in the 1980s. I don’t recall us acknowledging the passing of the year, instead the celebrations revolved around Eid and National Day.

Yes, New Year’s Day was a public holiday, but it wasn’t as big a “thing” as it is now. For one thing, there wasn’t the smorgasbord of night spots and fancy restaurants there are now, and the concept of a du Arena-style December 31 concert was near inconceivable.

At best, hotels like the InterContinental and Sheraton would host a few regional pop stars in their ballrooms, while some families gathered ­together for barbecues at the Corniche – like they would every weekend or public holiday – and that was that. The clock would strike midnight unknowingly while we played football on the grass, and we would go home with our stomachs full and eyes droopy.

There was no extravagant firework display and discussions of resolutions. It was simple and memorably unmemorable.

'Relationships grow deeper with time, and not moments'

While I am excited about how Abu Dhabi has evolved over the decades, I do miss those times. The simple pleasures of enjoying the company of family and friends, without reason or context, is something we have lost a little over the years. This could be put down to our increasingly fast-paced lifestyles and the lack of a work-life balance.

Another reason is the wide-spread use of social media, and its associated “over-sharing” culture, leading to an increasing need to attribute meaning to our life each and every day.

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Read more from Saeed:

Why we should all staycation in the UAE more: and now is the perfect time for it

Abu Dhabi's Big Grill Festival continues the city's fine knack for family-friendly events

Reem Central Park continues Abu Dhabi’s tradition of creating great green spaces for all to enjoy

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This is probably why New Year’s resolutions, despite being a faulty premise, continue to endure. Hanging out and chilling with loved ones is no longer enough. We need to give the night a layer of resonance, so we ­announce to our friends and family (real and on social media) some new life-changing and Herculean task that we plan to accomplish by the end of the year.

And, of course, it doesn’t work – those gym cards are dusty and we still sneak out for cigarettes. That’s because big life changes are often frustratingly slow, rarely progress in a straightforward manner and are certainly not going to be solidified in one night.

It’s the same thing when it comes with relationships. They grow deeper with time, not by moments. It is that reason that I won’t join my group of friends to party on Monday night and, instead, plan to be at home with a book or movie. I will catch up with them for our regular Tuesday dinner – because seeing them every week is more important to me.

That said, I wish you all a safe and happy New Year celebration.

Updated: December 27, 2018 04:05 PM

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