Driven to the edge by a classroom full of recalcitrant teenagers, my old maths teacher ended one lesson in total exasperation. “I’ve taught you everything I know,” he exclaimed. “And now you know nothing!” I knew what he was getting at, and his words are echoing in my head as I write this column in which I’m going to tell you everything I know about New Year’s Eve – lessons that have been learned the hard way through years of experience. I don’t, however, expect you to remember any of it once you put your dancing shoes on.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be doing my civic duty unless I passed on a few rules which, if applied judiciously, will stand you in good stead over the next 24 hours and beyond.
1. Don’t ever make a decision in the hours of darkness. The night plays tricks with one’s psyche, so don’t try to resolve anything tonight that may have profound consequences in your future life. Restrict yourself to deciding whether you’re going to have red or white, and everything else can wait to the daylight hours.
2. Always go to bed when someone starts singing “American Pie”. This is a variation of the old rule that “nothing good ever happens after 2am”, but amounts to the same. It also works for “Danny Boy”. Just make sure that when the pipes, the pipes are calling, or when February is making you shiver, you make your excuses and go to bed.
3. Don’t sneak glances at your mobile phone. Apart from the etiquette question, it’s a good thing to try and live in the present. This is particularly important for those afflicted by FOMO (the “fear of missing out”). Someone, somewhere is having a much better time than you and they’re bound to post pictures to make sure you know about it. Don’t give them the satisfaction, and self-regulate your social media activity. This is not a bad rule to carry forward into your day-to-day life.
4. Remember that it’s just December the 31st. It’s nothing more than a date in the calendar, so don’t invest the night with too much importance. OK, it’s the end of one year and the start of another, but you should have done all your looking back and casting forward by now: tonight is not the time for introspection, especially if a few of your brain cells are diluted by alcohol. Treat it like any other night, and manage your expectations.
5. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Resolutions are all well and good, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Instead of vowing to give up drink, for instance, choose something easier to deny yourself, like avocados or EastEnders. A broken resolution amounts to cheating on yourself, and no one wants to do that.
6. Just say no. You’re much less likely to regret anything if you simply respond with a no. Trust me on this one. It’s the rule, forged through bitter experience, that I most wish I’d lived my life by.
The road to 2016 is paved with good intentions and dangerous temptations. Be careful out there, and so, as we (and particularly I) say good riddance to 2015, I have only one thing to add: Happy New Year!
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