Happy new year! Am I too late? In a “Seinfeld” episode, Jerry and Elaine contemplated how long a “happy new year” greeting is acceptable. They never did figure out how late is “too late,” but you can usually get away with a “Happy New Year” until about Jan. 21.

Happy new year!

Am I too late?

In a “Seinfeld” episode, Jerry and Elaine contemplated how long a “happy new year” greeting is acceptable.

They never did figure out how late is “too late,” but you can usually get away with a “Happy New Year” until about Jan. 21. After that, most of us are too busy baking Groundhog Day cakes or buying eggs to decorate for Presidents Day.

That explains why there’s no niche for “Belated Happy?New Year” greeting cards. Like:
“Better late than never / I lost track of time / Have a Happy New Year / and a merry Auld Lang Syne.”

Maybe that’s the reason those cards haven’t caught on: weak rhyming schemes.

In China, they don’t have this problem. The Chinese New Year begins near the end of January and lasts for a half-month. Over there, the new year never gets old.

In our society, the holiday consists mainly of New Year’s Eve Day Night. The Chinese New Year is a much more extended process, as we know from the signature Chinese New Year song:

“On the first day of new year / my true love gave to me / a dragon in pear tree.”

Each day, the verses are layered in “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” fashion: “12 oxen oxing, 11 tigers tiging,” and so on. Twelve days later, you’re done and there are still three days you can’t sing about. You do the math.

So why don’t we get hung-up about a late new-year greetings??If you miss your chance the first week of January, most of us don’t tend to think about it.

If the New Year holiday lacked identity — like Labor Day — I could understand. But it has a personality. To prove it, try cross-pollinating it on a different occasion.

“Did you get your sweetheart a valentine?”

“No, but I did give her a box of chocolate-covered noisemakers, champagne-flavored roses and a heart-shaped party hat.”

Once a holiday passes, we don’t think about it for any length of time, or even any width of time.

When you see a box of unused sparklers languishing in your closet on St. Patrick’s Day, you tend to think, “What are these thin metal rods that contain metallic fuel and oxidizer??They don’t evoke much excitement for me at this time of year.”

In some respects, our “next!” mentality is good. Otherwise, people would keep Pilgrim-o-lanterns on their porch year-round or, heaven forbid, we’d create something ridiculous like “Christmas in July.”

That would be worse than playing the Super Bowl in February.

Dennis Volkert is features editor at the Sturgis Journal. Contact him at volkert@
sturgisjournal.com