opinion

OPINION: New Year's Eve doesn't feel celebratory this year. We've got too much to fear.

Never has the lead up to a new year felt so grim. So un-festive. So scary.

You’re not imagining it, New Year’s celebrations feel different this time around.

Instead of focusing on what dresses we’re going to wear, and what beverage we’re going to choose to ring in 2020 tomorrow night, we’re struggling to wrap our heads around the current state of emergency.

Bushfires are still burning, our skies are still orange, our volunteers are cripplingly tired and our optimism quickly evaporates when we remember: we aren’t even half way through summer yet.

The NSW Premier’s response to calls for the fireworks to be cancelled are below. Post continues after video.

Video by ABC

Every year feels like the “most depressing one yet” when we reflect on the news of the 12 months prior, but that sentiment feels truer for 2019 probably because we’re currently living through those horror headlines.

Then there are the fireworks. Usually they’re the drawcard – but this year there’s a feeling of guilt at the idea of enjoying them.

Isn’t that a waste of money?

What about the fire threat?

Sign the petition to cancel Sydney’s fireworks display!

The petition has been signed by close to 300,000 people (you can find it here). The comments on the thread are desperate calls for action calling them “obscene,” “insane,” and “stupid” while the country is still battling against an unprecedented number of fires.

But then there’s the counter argument; what about the joy they bring? The celebration they represent? The $133 million in revenue from tourism (for an investment of $6 million) the display brings to the state of New South Wales?

Whatever side you’re on, there’s no denying the panic and pain and controversy surrounding the signifier of the new year to come. The world renowned Sydney fireworks – among the first to be shown on TV screens globally – are this year shrouded by anger and smoke, lots of smoke.

City Of Sydney Celebrates New Year's Eve 2016
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve every year. Image: Brett Hemmings City of Sydney/Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

Charles Purcell writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, "Sorry, I see our fireworks as a tasteless display of human excess," pointing out the other side effects the celebration brings: the startling of birds and bats, and the terror we instil into dogs scared of loud noises.

While I agree wholeheartedly with this argument, and with all of the arguments against, I also can't help but think: we also need this celebration. If we cancel it, the sense of  hysteria and fear will only catapult. Yes, we need to be in fear - climate change is real, the bushfires are real, the dangers are real - but we also need joy, don't we?

The Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian said in response to the fireworks fears, "we have to stay strong. We [NSW] are a hopeful, optimistic state - we're a resilient state. We appreciate there's a lot of suffering in the community right now, but we should stay strong, and if the RFS and the experts say it's safe to have the fireworks continue, well, we should do that."

But that joy has already been dimmed for thousands hoping to spend the celebration at Falls Festival in Lorne which has been cancelled because of the bushfire threat in Victoria. It has left 9,000 people who had hoped to spend the countdown in a festival mosh-pit, without plans. Several councils have also scrapped local fireworks, including Canberra who is under a total fire ban until Wednesday and Toowoomba, out of respect for fire victims.

australian bushfires
For our firefighters and the victims of the past few months, New Year's eve won't be a celebration. It'll just be another day. Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

Then there are the victims of the fires themselves of course, and the volunteers still out there, fighting the flames. New Year's for them won't be a celebration at all.

Perhaps it's naive of me to suggest we need it when for so many tomorrow night will just be another in which they'll be trying to cradle their grief - or on a far less serious level - a night of disappointment thanks to cancelled plans.

But there's a wider mood too, one we share with the globe that's rooted in the terrifying phenomenon of global warming and the current state of climate change as a whole. It has made the excessive waste and consumption at this time of year feel wrong.

We've just emerged from Christmas, which for the first time (for many) felt over-indulgent. Opening Christmas presents wrapped in paper, buying plastic Christmas trees, using too much energy powering fairy lights adorning our homes - it all feels a bit ick now that a larger majority of us have truly woken up to the state of the planet.

christmas 2019
Christmas felt different this year. Image: Getty.

1.5 million people will still head to Sydney Harbour to watch this year's fireworks display.

Millions will still share a kiss, a drink and a dance on New Year's Eve tomorrow night - me included.

But I wonder how many, like me, will feel a bit guilty doing so?

It feels a little bit indulgent celebrating this year, when we've got so much to fear. What a cruel oxymoron that we'll be watching fireworks in the sky while fire on the ground continues to wreak havoc.

How are you feeling about this year's New Year's celebrations? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature image: Getty.

00:00 / ???