Humankind has celebrated the turning of the new year for many centuries.

Some 4,000 years ago the ancient Babylonians kicked off the start of a new year on the date of the full moon following the spring equinox.

The Babylonians really knew how to party. Their celebration, called Akitu, lasted 11 days.

Happy Akitu.

The first of January became the beginning of the new year when Julius Caesar changed the calendar to honor Janus, the Roman god of beginnings.

The celebrations have changed down the centuries, but the basic concept remains the same — out with the old, in with the new.

Happy New Year.

Normally the old year is merely ushered out with a hail fellow well met and so long it’s been good to know you vibe.

Not this year. The year of our Lord 2020 will be tossed summarily and unceremoniously to the curb, given the New Year’s Eve version of the bum’s rush.

It has been a year unlike any other. It was a year in which life, as we know it, changed, perhaps forever.

It was the year of COVID-19, of toilet-paper hoarding, of empty grocery store shelves, and emptier bellies among the millions of people who have lost their ability to make a living thanks to the novel coronavirus.

It was the year of economic upheaval, the stock market up, the income of real working Americans down.

It was the year of battles over wearing masks, with threats of violence over the donning of a simple piece of cloth over one’s nose and mouth.

It was a year of divided families, forced apart by differing belief systems surrounding the virus, as well as the fact some families choose to stay away from each other now so they can live to gather together in the future.

Remember Dec. 31, 2019? Was the novel coronavirus on the tip of your tongue or had you even ever heard of it?

According to the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine, the existence of the novel coronavirus was confirmed on New Year’s Eve, 2019.

And now look at us. We are about to end the deadliest year in the history of America.

As of mid-week, more than 323,000 Americans had died as the result of COVID-19.

Overall more than 3 million Americans will have died this calendar year by the time the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year.

The year about to pass was a year in which America came face to face with its deep-seated racial divide. We watched in horror as a police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds, during which time he called out that he couldn’t breathe, and cried out for his mother.

George Floyd was not an isolated case, however. There are so many other names — Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and so many others.

Happy New Year.

This year just slipping away saw a bitter presidential election, a vote that just won’t quite seem to die. President Trump still seems to be clinging to the faint hope that he will somehow be able to remain in office after Jan. 20. It won’t happen, of course.

Many people are happy about the upcoming change in administrations, especially the 81 million plus Americans who voted for Joe Biden. And many other people, especially the 74 million plus who voted for Donald Trump, are equally unhappy.

Thus the American ship of state sails into 2021 a deeply divided nation, and we know what Mr. Lincoln said about a divided house.

Happy New Year.

But with a new year comes new hope, a good old American sense of cockeyed optimism that no matter how bad things get, better days await us.

There are proven effective vaccines against COVID-19 for one thing, and the sooner we can get as many people vaccinated as possible, we can get back to some semblance of normalcy.

And besides, as we look ahead to 2021 we can rest assured that one thing will come to pass, while it might not be any better than 2020, it can’t get any worse.

It can’t, can it?

Happy New Year.

Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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