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PHUKET: As the year draws to a close, social media have been flooded with an increasingly common sentiment: ‘Good Riddance, 2016’.

Fair enough. The past year has seen so many unprecedented – many would say negative – developments that it would be futile to try to list them all here.

But a few do stand out as potentially bellwether. In terms of democracy, at least where it still functions to a reasonable degree, 2016 left many people reeling.

First was the United Kingdom opting out of the EU with the surprising result of the Brexit referendum. This was followed by an equally jolting development in the US, where the Electoral College chose reality TV star and hip-shooting hillbilly Donald Trump as the nation’s new Commander-in-Chief.

In the Middle East, ISIS, the world’s undisputed leader in sectarian violence, continues its land war to claim responsibility for horrific acts of terror abroad. The list goes on and on.

With global overpopulation, technological change and environmental degradation proceeding at paces never before imaginable, it should not be surprising that so many take the bait when promised a return to ‘simpler times’, whether it comes in the form of a fabled Islamic caliphate, a colonial-era Great Britain, or a Leave it to Beaver version of the US, circa 1950.

In reality, of course, we have never had it so good. If we could somehow be transported back in time to one of these bygone eras, we would no doubt soon be clutching our smartphones and furiously tapping our heels together begging to be sent back home.

Nevertheless, change fosters feelings of nostalgia that are perfectly wrapped up in traditions. And here in Thailand we are particularly enthusiastic about celebrating them all. Where else in the world might we find no fewer than four public holidays within a time span of less than two weeks?

The latest stop on the current calendar of observances is today, Christmas, the pagan holiday successfully re-branded as the birthday of Jesus Christ, whose real birth date is, of course, unknown.

But as arbitrarily as they may come to us, holiday traditions provide a perfect vehicle for us to spend time with friends and loved ones, to reflect on the past – and, to the extent possible, to plan for the future.

With that in mind, we wish all of our readers safe and happy holidays, and extend our best wishes for 2017.