New Year Reflections… why I’m Celebrating in March

When do you celebrate New Year

When do you celebrate your New Year?

Throughout the world, the first day of the New Year is most widely recognised as being the 1st of January. This is of course under the Gregorian Calendar which was established as a standard time system back in 1582 as a refinement of the Julian Calendar (the first Solar Calendar in 45 B.C.) but with the exception of Easter, which is still determined by a lunar calendar.

A solar year is the time it takes our Earth to orbit the sun which is around 365 days.

But for me, my New Year is always in March, on my Birthday.

My birth in the earth’s northern hemisphere in early March, places me in the astrological solar charts as a Pisces.

Pisces - The Backpacking Housewife
In the astrological zodiac calendar I’m a Pisces

Pisces is the last sign in the astrological zodiac calendar and portrays me as a fish. However, in the Chinese zodiac, I’m a rat and the very first sign in the animal zodiac sequence. So, if you think about it, how we quantify and relate to time and when we choose to contemplate and indeed celebrate a New Year – really does depend on where you are born, your culture, and your religion if you have one – and your frame of reference.

In the Special Theory of Relativity, Einstein determined that time is relative to your frame of reference.

Solar New Year or Lunar New Year ?

Sun and Moon The Backpacking Housewife
Do you follow the sun or the moon…?

Interestingly, depending on culture, many people of the world consider the exact time and date of their New Year not on the sun and standardised solar cycle but by the moon or lunar calendar.

A lunar year is 12 full cycles of the Moon, which is around 354 days.

And, because of the difference between a solar and lunar year, those using the lunar calendar insert a 13th month into every 3 years. This explains why some people and countries of the world will often celebrate their New Year on unfixed days or months of the year.

As midnight approaches on New Year’s Eve, many people choose to take a moment to quietly reflect on the year that has passed. It’s a poignant time to pause and take stock of the direction of one’s life. The promise of a New Year is in many ways a fresh start in life and a wonderful time to celebrate and to make special and regenerative plans and promises to ourselves so we can progress and move forward into our new future with hope and positivity.

So, in this post, in my birthday month, I’m looking back at a year in which the whole world changed and ponder on how we might all move forward in the New Future. Not just for me personally but for all of us. I believe, 2020 was a year which – true to Einstein’s Theory – proved to us all that time is indeed relative.

2020 - 2021. The Backpacking Housewife
Maybe it’s no bad thing to have time to pause and to reflect on the past and the future?

It’s been a year in which I’ve sometimes felt overwhelmed and to some extent traumatised by the lockdowns that have curtailed our freedoms of movement. I’ve often felt afraid for my loved ones and for myself with the unprecedented spread of the Covid-19 that has led us to this global crisis.

But it’s also been a time in which I’ve sometimes felt not so much trapped as cocooned and paused.

It’s often felt like time has stood still. But maybe it’s no bad thing to have time to pause and to reflect on the past and the future?

And, I know from reading your social media posts on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, that you’ve all felt the same conflicting ways to more or lesser degrees about being in lockdown. These are, after all, unprecedented times.

New Year Reflections… looking back

In early March 2020, I was living in South West France. The backpacking husband and I were housesitting in a beautiful 500- year-old chateau. We’d made lovely French friends and had settled happily into a quiet French life.

Life in France. The Backpacking Housewife
We settled happily into French Life and had several visits from family & friends

We received occasional invitations from our lovely French neighbours for aperitifs and dinner, which we reciprocated. We also had several visits throughout our time in France from our family and friends in the UK and from our son and his family all the way from South Korea. But, as we were living in an isolated area deep in the French countryside, for most of the time we were already living a socially-distanced lifestyle (was that even a term we ever used before 2020?) without actually realising it.

This suited us in any case, I was writing most of the time to achieve my book deadline for my Backpacking Housewife Series of books published by HarperCollins, while my husband was busy managing the chateau, maintained the grounds and the swimming pool and the two rental gites.

Working in France . The Backpacking Housewife
I was writing most of the time to achieve my book deadline while my husband was busy managing the chateau and grounds

In March 2020, life in France was kind of idyllic. We’d learned a little of the French language and lots about French wine.

But in March 2020 we knew that was all going to change because we’d made plans to travel again.

On 1st March, I sent my final manuscript to my editor in London and a few days later, I celebrated my 60th Birthday.

A milestone birthday and a brand new decade in life that was looking forward to in many ways. For my birthday, my darling husband had, unbeknown to me, risen early to decorate the chateau’s huge kitchen with birthday balloons and streamers and flowers. He then presented me with my breakfast in bed and his gift.

My 60 Ans Birthday with balloons and champagne and breakfast in bed. The Backpacking Housewife
My 60 Ans Birthday with balloons and champagne and breakfast in bed!

His special gift to me was a fabulous collection of video clips that he’d meticulously collected and put together of all my family and friends from all over the world wishing me a happy birthday. It was wonderful!

And, I still don’t know how he managed it, but it ended with Donny Osmond (my teenage crush) singing ‘It’s Your Birthday’ to me! What? How? As you can imagine, I was thrilled and tearful and completely bowled over!

Leaving France

Mid-March 2020, very early in the morning and before we could hear any news of the day, we left France to fly to the UK as planned. We bade an emotional farewell to our dear French friends and to Mr Smudge – the cat in the chateau who had often kept me company while I was writing – and we left France with the two backpacks that we’d first arrived with to fly from Bordeaux to London.

From London we would take a short flight to Scotland to spend a weekend with two of our sons who live in Glasgow and Edinburgh, before taking a train down to middle England in order to spend a few days with family and friends before continuing our train journey back down to London from where we would fly across the Atlantic to the USA before heading over to Central America and onto the Caribbean with a plan to return to the UK in October, to attend our eldest son’s wedding in Edinburgh.

We had made so many plans for the year and we were so excited to be setting off travelling again!

But, little did we know, while we were busy booking planes and trains and busses and boats, that the deadly virus in China had now migrated into South Korea and that the news of it was about to strike down all our carefully made plans.

Then, having seen the news coming from South Korea, we were very concerned about one of our sons. He lives in Daegu South Korea with his wife and her family and our little grandson. News coverage showed all sorts of harrowing scenes from Daegu – a city we have visited many times – with people being told to stay in their homes and streets being disinfected by men in white suits and full-face masks.

I’ll admit that I suddenly had a really bad feeling about leaving France and about everything generally.

I expressed my feelings and my fears to my backpacking husband, who assured me that we were doing the right thing in giving up our long-term housesitting in France (the homeowner had found house sitters to replace us) and everything would be okay. After all, our flights were all confirmed and we’d spent the past few months planning our trip meticulously.

Only, when we arrived in London we discovered that the USA had just banned all entry from travellers from Europe. The UK wasn’t included in that proviso yet. But it was only a matter of hours before it was and, as we’d just come from France, we knew we wouldn’t be allowed to board our flight to the USA.

Travel Ban Poster

We suddenly realised that our carefully made plans had fallen like a line of dominoes and that we wouldn’t be leaving the UK to stay at the hotel that we’d booked for an overnight in Miami before flying onto San Pedro Sula in Honduras Central America and that we’d no longer be taking the small plane that we’d chartered over to the island in the Caribbean. Because there was a travel ban. A lockdown. A rule about staying home.

Except… we didn’t have a home. Location free suddenly meant homeless.

We couldn’t expect family of friends to accommodate us for however long this took to ‘blow over’.

We flew as planned from London to Scotland and stayed one night with each of our sons. We watched the news at home and abroad. We chatted with our son in South Korea. His city – Daegu – a city previously unknown to most of the world was now headline news and was being talked about on every channel on UK TV and probably throughout the world. We were now very worried about what was happening there and how it would affect our Korean family.

In England, we were supposed to have been staying with my Mum for a few days, sleeping in her spare room. I hadn’t seen my Mum since last June when she’d visited us in France. But I knew my Mum was vulnerable. She’s been having treatment for breast cancer over the past year and was in the category that now needed ‘shielding’.

Because of the awful news from Italy, anyone coming into the UK from anywhere in Europe was now being treated with suspicion and considered at risk of carrying the virus, and so tearfully and over the garden gate and at two meters apart, we told my mum that we couldn’t stay with her as planned after all.

Thankfully, my dear best friend came to our rescue and offered to share her home with us. I will be forever grateful to her as by now I was stricken with panic and anxiety. When we’d sold our home and our cars and everything we owned to travel the world and live like world travelling nomads – we’d had no idea that six years on there would be a global travel ban.

We had thought, back then, that we were grabbing our chance to travel and see the world in mid-life (we were aged 54 and 55 at the time) before time got in our way – before we got too old or we lost our vitality and health – and not because of a global pandemic happening at any time in the near future.

In hindsight, do we have regrets? No. Instead, I’m extremely thankful we decided to travel when we did.

Feeling Thankful

Because over the past years of travel we’ve had the most amazing adventures and met so many fantastic people along the way. If anything, this situation has only reinforced our desire to travel and our wanderlust.

I’m also thankful that our decision to leave France turned out to be the right one.

Because we’ve somehow managed to end up living back in our homeland of Scotland. And, for the past year, we’ve been renting a house very close to the house we’d sold seven years ago. In many ways, it feels like life has come full circle for us and we are exactly where we are meant to be right now.

Spring and summer in Scotland during 2020 were lovely in many ways. The weather was amazingly warm and sunny for how I remembered Scotland. Even Autumn was mild and golden as the leaves turned and fell to the ground. And, the wintertime was of course very cold and snowy and that was bit of novelty, after spending so many winters abroad and in tropical places!

Spending all four seasons in Scotland after seven years away…

By early summer 2020, the news from South Korea was improved. Thankfully, the virus had been swiftly brought under control there. Their track and trace efforts were working and lockdown measures where slowly starting to be relaxed.

Our family in South Korea were safe and we could breathe again.

And, when the First Lockdown ended in Scotland and the rest of the UK, to be replaced with strict social distancing measures, we got out and about and to see our other two sons again. We took the bus to Edinburgh using our new bus passes (the over 60’s in Scotland get free bus travel within Scotland!) We ate out to help out’ (WHAT WERE THE GOVERNMENT THINKING BTW?) and I was able to meet a dear friend in town for lunch.

My mid-summer we could see our sons who lived in Scotland even had friends over to dinner.

In August my dearest best friend (who’d so bravely and thoughtfully had helped us out back in March when we had nowhere to stay) came to visit us. She and I went off on a girly-weekend to Edinburgh together staying in a hotel during what would have normally been the time of The Fringe and Festival. But, with no tourists around, we had the streets of Edinburgh to ourselves. The bars and restaurants were all open (with social distancing measures in place) and so we were able to have our lunch at our favourite restaurant The Witchery by the Castle and our tour of Edinburgh Castle was like no other we or anyone else has ever experienced – no lines, no queues – no people at all.

In August 2020 our tour of Edinburgh Castle was like no other we or anyone else has ever experienced

Also during the summer, as being back in Scotland really was an unexpected bonus for us, we decided to make a checklist of all the helpful things we could do during our time here that would facilitate our future travels. After all, it had been seven years since we’d been ‘on the grid’ and many of those years had been spent in third-world countries.

We’d also calculated that the small storage facility we’d rented seven years ago, to keep six-years of business accounts for tax legality purposes and to store a few personal items that we’d found hard to part with at the time together with a couple of suitcases of winter clothes, had ended up costing us way more than the value of those items.

So this was what that checklist looked like: Clear and cancel our storage facility. Sell anything of value. Apply for our Over-60’s free bus passes. Get eye tests and new reading glasses. See a dentist. Check we were still registered with a health centre in anticipation of our Coronavirus and future travel vaccines. Get back on the UK electoral register.

Feeling unable to concentrate on writing another novel (I’ve heard that writer’s block is a real issue during 2020) instead I turned my attention to taking digital photos of all our old photos in our family photo albums (that had been in storage) to upload to my cloud photo storage for the future.

I also invested in lots of time and money on online study courses to do with building up this new travel website at The Backpacking Housewife Dotcom in order to focus on inspiring and helping people with wanderlust to travel more when it is safe to do so again. Because I’m convinced, now more than ever, that those of us with wanderlust in our souls will still want to escape what we might now consider a captive lifestyle in favour of expanding our horizons in the New Future and when it is safe to travel again.

“I want to positively encourage and inspire all of you who dream of having travel adventures to start planning for that dream life right now and to do so while we are all paused.”

A Scottish Wedding

As summer waned and the weather cooled we were looking ahead to the Autumn and to October when our eldest son was to be married in Edinburgh. When suddenly there was news of a ‘second wave’ of the virus.

The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned of Second Lockdown restrictions.

Restrictions that would bring in compulsory facemask wearing and affect all social gatherings… and weddings. We already knew of dear friends who’d had to postpone their weddings in 2020. And, it was obvious at this point, that the grand Scottish Wedding our son and his fiancee had planned at a beautiful wedding venue just outside Edinburgh on the side of a Scottish loch with lots of guests and a big party afterwards was not going to happen. But, according to the new rules, it could still go ahead with a minimum amount of guest.

A new and smaller wedding venue was hastily found but many family and friends – who had already booked hotels and bought their wedding outfits – were told they now sadly couldn’t attend.

But, just two days before the new and hastily planned wedding, the Second Wave of the virus had become an even bigger threat and it was hastily announced that even tougher restrictions were coming into effect in Scotland on the day of the wedding. We called our son and our daughter-in-law to be and they told us to grab our wedding outfits and get onto the next bus to Edinburgh because the wedding had been brought forward one day to beat the restrictions!

For those who could be there: the bride and groom and the officiant, myself and my husband as mother and father of the groom, together with the groomsmen and bridesmaids and the mother and father of the bride – it was a special and intimate and very beautiful wedding ceremony – even though we were all wearing masks.

A Scottish Wedding: Our son and his lovely new wife on their 2020 Wedding Day

We all had a glass of champagne outside afterwards and the bride and groom were whisked away for photographs in the park. For those who couldn’t be there and for those of us who had wanted to celebrate long into the night but couldn’t, there is an ‘after-party’ planned at the original wedding venue by the loch but in November 2021.

A Scottish Christmas

At times, during 2020, time often seemed to either stand completely still or be on a repetitive loop something like a Groundhog Day, but suddenly it was December and Christmastime. It was the first Christmas we’d spent in Scotland for 7 years.

And, every day, my Facebook memories popping up are of December’s and Christmases spent in far off corners of the world.

There are photos and video snippets of us in tropical places with our skin deeply tanned, smiling and waving at the camera, wearing swimsuits and Santa-hats on white-sand beaches or onboard dive boats on warm seas off the islands of the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Caribbean.

Facebook memories keep popping up of December’s and Christmases spent in far off corners of the world.

I’m feeling rather strange and wistful about it all. Life back in Scotland still feels surreal and unreal.

Did we really travel all the way around the world… twice… or was it just a dream?

I console myself in knowing that this year it might be freezing cold and snowing outside but we have a cosy and affordable home to live in and a log fire burning. And importantly, for the first time in seven years, although I still couldn’t see my Mum or my siblings or my nieces or nephews – we’ll get to see two of our three sons at Christmastime – and that it would be an extra fabulously wonderful bonus.

So, we got a real Christmas tree for the sitting room and I started decorating the house and ordering gifts for Christmas much earlier than I’ve ever done before. I was so excited.

Except, of course, the Third Wave happened and Christmas was cancelled.

I will admit to you that just like millions of others on that day of the announcement about even tougher social distancing restrictions over Christmas – made just a few days before Christmas – made me cry for a while. Then I dried my tears and we spoke to our sons on the phone – while staring sadly at their wrapped presents under the Christmas tree – and we all agreed that we’d see each other and celebrate in the New Year.

I also knew we had a First Minister in Scotland who was doing her very best in the most terrible of times by putting people’s safety and welfare and health as a priority in unprecedented times.

However, a great spark of joy was to be had when our youngest son, who lives in a flat in Glasgow and works both from home and online, told us he didn’t want to spend Christmas alone and he’d like to come and join our ‘bubble’ in which, under restrictions, one person from another household was allowed to join another… and we were ecstatic!

He arrived on the 20th of December and stayed over Christmas and Hogmanay and for all of January for a total of six weeks. It was wonderful and I’m so very thankful that we had all that quality time together.

Sadly, we have yet to see our eldest son and his new wife in Edinburgh or any other family members, but we are hopeful that can happen soon because the Covid-19 Coronavirus vaccine programme is now well underway in Scotland and the UK. We are told – as over 60’s – that we can expect our first dose of vaccine in March 2021.

Just in time for my birthday and in time to celebrate my New Year!

Time to celebrate a New Year and a New Future. the Backpacking Housewife
Time to celebrate a New Year and a New Future?
New Year in March Reflections 2020 2021 by the Backpacking Housewife

NEW YEAR THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

Most Countries: The first day of the civil year according to the Gregorian calendar is January 1.

Russia – Serbia – Macedonia and Ukraine ( Eastern Orthodox Church) celebrate New Year on January 14.

Chinese New Year: ‘Chunjie’ is lunisolar and can happen anytime between January 21 and February 20.

Vietnamese New Year: ‘Tet’ is celebrated in either at the end of January or in early February.

Mongolian New Year: ‘Tsagaan Sar’ is celebrated on February 16.

Bali New Year: in Indonesia this island celebrates their New Year or ‘Nyepi’ on March 7.

Iranian New Year: ‘Nowruz’ is celebrated on March 21.

Hindu New Year: ‘Vikram Sawant’ is celebrated on March 22.

Northern Iraq and North East Syrian New Year: is celebrated on April 1.

Thailand’s New Year: ‘Songkran’ is celebrated between April 13-15.

Myanmar (previously Burma) New Year: ‘Thingyan’ – like many Asian countries also celebrate mid-April.

Nigerian New Year: ‘Ibgo’ is celebrated in late April.

Sri Lanka’s New Year: ‘Aluth Avuradda’ and Cambodia’s ‘Chol Chanam’ and South India’s ‘Puthandu’ and the Bengali (Bangladesh) New Years are celebrated on April 14.

Ethiopian New Year: ‘Enkututash’ is celebrated on September 11.

Islamic New Year: ‘Hijri’ is celebrated on September 22 to mark the journey of the prophet Mohammad from Mecca to Medina.

Jewish New Year: ‘Rosh Hashanah’ is celebrated in the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar usually in September or October .

Murador New Year: The Western Australian Aboriginal Tribe Murador celebrate their New Year on October 30.

India’s New Year: ‘Diwali’ or Festival of Lights is celebrated between mid-October to mid-November depending on the moon’s cycle.

The Inuit (people of the Arctic Region) New Year: is celebrated on the 24th December.

When do you celebrate your New Year?

How has 2020/2021 been for you?

How have you coped during the three lockdowns?

What are you looking forward to most in the New Future?

How does travel feature in your New Future?

Leave a comment and I promise to reply!

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2 comments

Kit -

A great post, Janice. So interesting and informative too. What a year, but we’ve come through it. Here’s hoping before too long you can once again pack that backpack and travel again. Take care and all my best wishes. Kit x

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Kit! It’s so lovely to hear from you and thanks for reading and commenting. This travel website has become my creative outlet during lockdown. I’m really excited going forward to have somewhere on the internet to share all my travel stories and write about future adventures. Yes, let’s hope that happens soon! Take care. Sending you my love and best wishes, Janice xx

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