The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin From The burning of scarecrows, kissing at the stroke of midnight and swinging fireballs, to gobbling grapes and throwing bread – when it comes to new year traditions, strange and interesting things happen all over the world. And even apart from its increasingly diverse population, Ireland is not exempt from such interesting observances. Celebrating in a pub on New Year’s Eve is just the thing as far as Brian Dowling is concerned. “There is great atmosphere in the pub and lots of friends there for a good laugh,” says the Dublin retailer, adding that “having a bit of fun and looking forward to the new year ahead” is what the evening is all about. Dowling’s experience is shared on the other side of Europe, particularly by Bosnians who celebrate with music, good food and drink. “We believe the best way to start a new year is with a proper party” says Jasmin Prnjavorac, and audio-video producer and editor. “There will usually be another party the night after the new year as well, so the celebration continues.” Such practices are no distraction to New York-based Dr Yomi Garnett, who chooses instead to meditate into 1 January. “I feel much more inclined to eliminate turbulence from my life,” says Dr Garnett, who was profiled in this column late last year. “This is why the raucous noise of a party environment can no longer offer itself as an attractive option for my own, personal entry into the new year.” In a non-judgemental stance, Dr Garnett believes each person’s actions are of their own volition. In his case, the experience of meditating provides him with total silence. “I employ this surreal experience to usher myself into the new year simply to ‘set the tone’, both symbolically and spiritually, for the year. In the past decade, I have made valiant, and thankfully, modestly successful efforts to increase the amount of silence in my life.” For Dublin childcare assistant Lucinda Roberts, new year celebrations are not complete without prayer, because “prayer is the pillar of existence. I pray into the new year for protection and to thank the Lord for watching over me the previous year. It is significant because it helps you start the year and be in tune with your maker.” While neither choice feels right for Dowling, he says those who pray or meditate are “doing what feels good and right for them”. There is no traditional way of welcoming the new year for Indians, but teacher Shikha Gill offers prayers in her private temple at home in Dublin. “It is something I can rely on and it gives me psychological comfort over futuristic things which are beyond my control,” she says. “We pray and offer gifts to god in the beginning of anything like a new job, new journey or new year in which we ask for blessings of the almighty.”
Gill also relies on prayers for psychological comfort and relief from anxiety arising, because “God rewards our prayers by keeping us strong during hardships and helping us out of them”. However, unlike Roberts, who believes those who drink into the new year are “ignorant”, Gill has no objection with people whose practices are different. “It’s just a matter of choice if you want to pray, party or sleep.” While new year’s resolutions are typically broken as often as they are made, Luis Amisterdan Germano is one of thousands who intends to kick off every year with new goals. “Writing your new year’s resolutions help you to maintain focus, feed your ambitions and give more meaning to your New Year,” says Germano, co-ordinator of Unigran Ireland, an online university for Brazilians. “It is the only one thing I like doing on the first day of the year,” he adds. “I sit down, reflect and assess the achievements and downfalls of my past year, write a list of positive things I want to achieve, and work on them throughout the new year.” No matter the practices, a new year signifies a new beginning, an opportunity to shrug off the previous year’s mistakes and worries, and finally, a chance to start afresh. Happy new year! - Princess Pamela Toyin has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0)87 417 9640 or email email@example.com.