Twitterland Nervously Welcomes 2016

Let’s get one thing straight. 2015 was not an easy year. In fact, globally (and to some extent on our island home) it was downright depressing, which is why I am avoiding all those “Review of the Year” programs on television and radio. Actually, I always avoid them. Let’s just move on and hope for the best, is the philosophy, I think.

New Year’s Eve in Twitterland reflected this somewhat nervy approach to 2016. Some people conceded that it had been a “challenging” (read: difficult and stressful) year, and were hoping for better. I recall once (I think after Princess Diana’s untimely death) Queen Elizabeth II in her end-of-year address describing a particular year as “annus horribilis.” So it was for many – especially young Jamaicans, perhaps – struggling to keep their heads above water at a very real personal level. Yes, I know. There were the usual clichés about learning from our mistakes and bad experiences, and moving on; which is sometimes easier said than done. Perhaps, as one friend observed on social media, the best thing to do with the New Year period is to regard it as The Year of To Be Continued. Why beat yourself up about it? Just keep going.

Crowds celebrate New Year in the Champs-Elysees, Paris. (Photo: Associated Press)
Crowds celebrate New Year in the Champs-Elysees, Paris. (Photo: Associated Press)

There were the usual round-the-world firework display pictures, which after a while start to look the same, however pretty they are. The “City of Lights” had a particularly grim year, but managed to celebrate – albeit without fireworks this year; a little too much like gunfire, perhaps. There was heavy security in the French capital, and a patriotic light show on the Arc de Triomphe, plus ” La Marseillaise.” Undaunted.

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Then, from Oxford, my former home and alma mater, there was a beautiful and colorful New Year’s greeting, which cheered me.

Finland seemed calm, and happy...
Finland seemed calm, and happy…
Amsterdam looked jolly, too.
Amsterdam looked jolly, too.

The glittering city of Dubai had a strange New Year, however. A hotel close to the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) caught fire and blazed furiously on New Year’s Eve, while its well-heeled occupants scampered to safety. Astonishingly (and thankfully) there were no serious injuries or deaths. Astonishingly too, the firework display on the BK building went ahead, as planned. What caused the fire, one wonders? Has terrorism been ruled out?

In Dubai, it was fire AND fireworks.
In Dubai, it was fire AND fireworks.
Happy New Year from Munich, Germany!
Happy New Year from Munich, Germany!

Speaking of terrorism, the city of Munich had a scare on New Year’s Eve, after receiving a tip from another country that five to seven Islamic State militants were planning coordinated attacks in the city. Two train stations were evacuated, and everyone had lots of fun. Meanwhile, the city remains on alert.

A member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA passes out anti-extremism flyers in New York City on December 31, 2015. (Photo: Salaam Bhatti)
A member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA passes out anti-extremism flyers in New York City on December 31, 2015. (Photo: Salaam Bhatti)

The thought of terrorism never seemed far from people’s minds, though. In New York’s Times Square, members of a Muslim youth group handed out anti-extremism leaflets and turned up on January 1 to help clean up the trash of the night before. #TheYearOfToBeContinued. And, according to Jean Lowrie-Chin, The Year of Mercy as Pope Francis has declared. I will have to learn more about this.

New Year's Eve, Aleppo, Syria. (Photo: Mustafa Sultan).
Fireworks, not bombs: New Year’s Eve, Aleppo, Syria. (Photo: Mustafa Sultan).

And wars dragged on, a depressing backdrop to the festivities. Nothing new. In Aleppo, Syria, I was trying to figure out whether a photo of flashing red lights was fireworks or a mortar attack. I firmly believe it was the former. I hope. I watched a video tweeted from Cizre, Turkey, on the Syrian border: “Those explosions are not fireworks. Happy “new” year Cizre.” Gunfire rattled and crashed in the darkness. Another photo simply labeled “bullets” showed a trail of anti-aircraft fire over Lebanon.

And let’s not forget Burundi, teetering on the edge of civil war. This European protester wanted to remind us…

My rough translation: "A special thought and honor for all the victims of the unconstitutional powers of Burundi and its militias. We ask Italy and the international community in general to help us in protecting the innocent population. Don't forget to assist a people in danger!"
My rough translation: “A special thought and honor for all the victims of the unconstitutional powers of Burundi and its militias. We ask Italy and the international community in general to help us in protecting the innocent population. Don’t forget to assist a people in danger!”

In Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” the annual New Year’s Day Mummers Parade (a centuries-old tradition) tried to be more inclusive this year. It’s supposed to be a celebration of working-class immigrants but has been accused of racism. I just learned about this. Yes, Twitter teaches me stuff.

A Mummer's Parade banner in Philadelphia. (Photo: Emma Scott/AFP)
A Mummers Parade banner in Philadelphia. (Photo: Emma Scott/AFP)

What did rural tweeters do on New Year’s Eve, around the world? Your guess is as good as mine. Go to bed early? Twitter did not record this. I guess Twitter’s mostly urban.

Thankfully, my timeline was also sprinkled with beautiful photographs of a tranquil world of Nature. This calmed my spirit somewhat. I have posted a few below.

(Miss) Edie the Pug taking a New Year bath - and not enjoying it much. (Photo: Twitter)
(Miss) Edie the Pug taking a New Year bath – and not enjoying it much. (Photo: Twitter)

In our neighborhood (and offline) New Year’s Eve was unusually muted. We waited for the usual barrage of fireworks and firecrackers at midnight. The crashes and whistles and thumps didn’t arrive, although the dogs were steeling themselves for them – at least, not like last year. We heard distant sounds. Perhaps everyone had gone downtown to watch the fireworks on the waterfront.

I recommend that, if you are on social media, Facebook is definitely a more positive place to hang out on New Year’s Eve. There are happy smiling faces, kids having fun, friends knocking back a few drinks, couples hugging. Although (Miss) Edie the Pug, who is Canadian, tweeted amusingly as usual. You can read her Year in Review here: http://ilovemydogmorethanmykids.com/year-in-review/ This funny little dog with a very long, pink tongue might put a smile on your face.

Welcome to the Year Of To Be Continued, 2016.

Did you know that our neighbors in St. Lucia do something called "Bamboo Bursting" on New Year's Eve? This makes the required noise! (Photo: Capella Hotel Marigot)
Did you know that our neighbors in St. Lucia do something called “Bamboo Bursting” on New Year’s Eve? This makes the required noise! (Photo: Capella Hotel Marigot)
Customers at the Digicel booth at the downtown New Year festivities. (Photo: Twitter)
Customers at the Digicel booth at the downtown New Year festivities. (Photo: Twitter)
The sun sets on 2015 - from a Colorado-bound airplane. (Photo: Twitter)
The sun sets on 2015 – from a Colorado-bound airplane. (Photo: Twitter)

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Celebrating Nature in the New Year… A flight of cormorants off the Pacific coast in California, photographed by Paul Jimerson.
Celebrating Nature in the New Year… A flight of cormorants off the Pacific coast in California, photographed by Paul Jimerson.
The last sunset of 2015, at the Vineyard Toll. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)
The last sunset of 2015, at the Vineyard Toll in St. Catherine. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

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