Happy New Year

Happy new year!

The whole shebang

When these words hit the Internet, there was one minute left in 2011 on the East Coast of the U.S. By now, we’re past that, even if only by seconds. We’re in that new chapter of the future, and people don’t call the years “two thousand” anymore. It’s “twenty” from here on out. Quicker. Fewer characters. Faster downloads.

Yeah, it’s the future, baby.

But I bet I’m not the only Burner who doesn’t feel like I live by the Gregorian calendar anymore. Burning Man has rearranged the year.

The Man in flames

Standing aboard the Crystal Ship on Burn Night, we say “Happy new year” to each other. What else can one say while the Man is burning? It’s the zero point. Reset the clock. The Man burns in 365 days. The Burner’s year ends with the summer, when the days are still long. January 1 is like its shadow.

It’s 2012 now. The Man burns in 244 days.

We count down each year to that summer night, but we name our Burns by the default calendar. Burning Man 2012. I’m sure we’ve all been thinking about this one for a while.

Love Temple

Burners are the kind of people who pay attention to Mayan prophecies, even if only to make fun of them. We like to think about time and history. We also build temples to honor the galaxy. And some of us are into aliens and what-have-you. But it’s not just us. This 2012 thing has permeated the culture. There’s no way to avoid it. This year is pivotal, even if only in our minds.

So happy new year, you dusty bunch. New Year’s Eve is the biggest party in the world. Burning Man can’t hold a candle to it. I don’t even think the comparison is a stretch. New Year’s parties, whether it’s the end of summer or the middle of winter, have their reputation for debauchery. But that’s not all there is to the Burn or the Ball Drop. On both nights, there are these moments of reverie, these still moments when we catch ourselves, and we stand by the edge of the racing river of time and fall silent.

The Trojan Horse

The solstice is past. We get a little more light every day from here until summertime. Welcome to Twenty-Twelve, my neighbors. The 27th Year of Burning Man. What do you make of it?

All photos by the incomparable Scott London

About the author: Jon Mitchell

I'm the managing editor at Burning Man. I wrote this book and this record. I co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012, which lives at templestories.com. I've been a Burner since 2008.

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