It is almost impossible to be blasé about New Year's Eve. However, I am sure that very few 31 Decembers were approached with quite the same trepidation and uncertainty as that of 1999, when we awaited the possible repercussions of the much-speculated 'Millennium Bug' which was predicted to wreak such havoc on society.
The so-called 'Y2K bug' related to the variances of the clocks inside computers; it was feared that as their cogs careered towards the new millennium, the date might be misinterpreted, thus setting all technology
back to 1900 rather than forward to 2000.
The world steeled itself for impending doom – for the chaos of global computer and network failure, catastrophic electricity and communications breakdowns, and the end of civilisation as we knew it.
With the dreaded day imminent, food and water were stockpiled as we were fed a daily diet of public safety warnings. The myriad instructions included how to deal with defunct televisions, video recorders and fax machines. Companies were advised how best to protect their businesses and equipment as lives and livelihoods were catapulted towards the possible ravages of a technological Armageddon.
I doubt many people were wiping the sweat from their brows in relief at reading in government-backed information material that 'lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and swimming-pool equipment etc.' would be safe. No doubt survival tactics rather than leisure or aesthetic considerations were uppermost in people's minds and took priority at such a crucial time.
Billions of pounds were spent in an attempt to avert potential disaster, even though no one could be certain the precautions would be effective – or even precisely what we would be facing when waking up on 1 January. That's if we had been brave enough to sleep through what might have been our last taste of earthly normality!
Yet when New Year's Day arrived, nothing untoward happened and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Those who had facilitated the spending of billions to safeguard our precious systems prided themselves on their success; others – with the luxury of hindsight – bewailed the resulting depletion of the public purse.
Whatever the reason, being perched on the cusp of a new year has, for many of us, a different feel from any other day, bringing with it a wide variety of mixed emotions, memories and sentiments.
We may have had a happy twelve months which we are reluctant to see draw to a close, though this regret can be tempered by the anticipation of looking forward to the prospect of more of the same.
Conversely, if we have had a particularly painful year, we may be relieved to see the back of it – hoping and praying that the dawning year will bring better.
As we usher in this new year we thank God for his many blessings, and when the midnight hour strikes let's think about all those people entering 2018 with a heavy heart and entrust them to God's care, asking him to bring them the comfort, healing and peace that only he can.