SOME wisdom from a holiday TV movie : 'Rudolph's Shiny New Year ' reminds us that even the very worst times attain grace.

IF 2020 were a person, what would it look like? I imagine someone tired, ravaged, beaten down by illness and police brutality, and weary from trying to stay afloat in a sinking economy.

We've personalized 2020 in articles and memes and GIF's, speaking of it as though it were a living, breathing, antagonist in our collective story. And this past New Year's celebration was not so much about the birth of a new year as about the death of an old one that no one asked for.

I was thinking of the poor pallor and limping gait of 2020 as I watched the 1976 Rankin/Bass stop-motion movie ''Rudolph's Shiny New Year'' over the holidays. The film highlighted something that 2021 will surely come to prove :

The way we mark time are arbitrary, ultimately a fantasy in which our memory of a year often accounts only for the extremes of our experience, the best and the worst things that happened to us. Time is unwieldy and untameable, so much larger that the ways we define it, and it continues whether or not we mark its passage.

I grew up watching all the Rankin Bass Christmas movies, with Heat Misers and Snow Misers and Burgermeister Meisterburgers, but ''Rudolph's Shiny New Year'' always screamed the odd man [or, more accurately, odd reindeer] out.

Unlike the others, which stuck to Christmas and its traditions, with stories of Santa and special holiday magic, ''Rudolph's Shiny New Year'' focused on our celebration of passing time.

The follow-up to ''Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'' set its protagonist on a new mission. After saving Christmas with his shiny schnoz beacon, Rudoloph must track down Happy, the baby new yea, who has run away because people keep making fun of his Dumboesque ears.

The aged Father Time tells Rudolph that if Happy isn't found by midnight on New Year's Eve, it will remain Dec 31 forever.

Rudolph encounters various silly side characters along the way, and the most delightful part of the movie for me was always his jaunt among the Archipelago of Last Years, with each year personified based on prominent events and attitudes, getting its own island where time is locked.

So we've kicked the old year out onto its island, and welcomed baby Happy 2021 hoping for the best. There is still a pandemic. There are still people sick and dying or unemployed.

But on New Year's Day, I passed children playing in the park and texted a friend about her exciting new job offer. I happily browsed new art to hang in my apartment, listened to music, and watched a TikTok  musical.

Our celebration of the passage of 2020 is arbitrary, because there is more to come the good and the bad and the everything in between.

For this very beautiful post, The World Students Society thanks critic and author Maya Philips.


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