Hogmanay, Soaking Wet & Oh, Canada!
Oh, Canada! Canada Day, Saturna Island, British Columbia, 2010
As we in the U.S. get ready to celebrate our Independence Day on July 4, this week’s prompt takes me back to Saturna Island, a small island between British Columbia’s mainland and Vancouver Island. On July 1, 2010, my wife and I got to be honorary Canadians for a day, as we celebrated Canada Day at a lamb BBQ with nearly 1,000 people.
Here’s the original post: Oh, Canada! – Antsaint
It’s not the only holiday that comes to mind, though…
Hogmanay, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2000
“Do you have some emergency food?” Mom asked from Virginia, USA, where she was convinced this may be our last phone conversation ever.
It was Dec. 31, 1999, and while my mom fretted on one end of the line, I sat in my flat in Edinburgh, Scotland, and thought about the massive street party I was going to later. But first I had to talk with Mom. One of my sisters had become obsessed with the Y2K bug, and was convinced that all civilization would cease existing on Jan. 1, 2000. Or, rather, Jan. 1, 1900, since all the clocks and timekeeping circuitry and code in the world would get the year wrong, prompting the collapse of life as we knew it.
“We have some canned tuna and about 10 bottles of wine,” I replied.
“Aren’t you worried?” she asked.
“New Zealand will be celebrating soon,” I said. “I’m going to check the news in a little while, and if New Zealand still exists, I’m not going to worry about a thing.”
Not the most assuring words for a son to give his mother, I suppose in retrospect. But then again, I’m not the one still working through a storm shelter supply of canned potatoes.
Since you’re reading this and I’m writing this, we know the world is still turning and civilization continues to tick along in its spit-and-duct-tape cutely enduring, endearing way. And it began anew that New Year’s Eve night in Edinburgh, when the party was on.
Hogmanay is the name for Scotland’s amazing New Year celebration. For one night, the city center of Edinburgh is made a pedestrian zone. We brought in a duffel bag full of beer, and spent hours wandering the crowds, dancing to live music, laughing at street theater, and talking about the excitement and buzz for the new year, the new millennium.
The world didn’t end. And we partied on.
Soaking Wet at Songkran, Bangkok, Thailand, 2004
Only the Thais could maintain such an earnest grin while dumping a bucket of water on you.
I love Thailand, but it was circumstantial that I was there for a stopover April night during the hottest part of the year and hence, the water-filled soak-fest that is Songkran, or Thai New Year.
On my way to China for a month in Tibet and Nepal, I tried not to think about how different Thailand was in comparison. Streaming water guns squirted from all directions—even up my pants leg at one point. The crowds were not people but magically floating buckets, either filled or about to be refilled. And everywhere, everywhere, the smiles and laughter of the Thais.
The Thais combine fun and circumstance in a way that I think no other culture can quite parallel: April is hot. April is New Year. We must celebrate. We must cool down. So we will celebrate New Year in the hottest part of the year by staying cool by soaking ourselves.
I wandered the streets of Bangkok for ages, wetter with every block. We laughed; the ever-contagious exuberance of those Thai smiles put a grin in my sloshy step. When I flew out to China the next day, I still wasn’t fully dried out, but I felt cleaned out inside, renewed for a new year, ready for the next adventures of travel, of experiences, of living the world.