Time to make resolutions…promises to do better, be better, make amends, lose weight, quit bickering, stop smoking, start forgiving, begin living (bucket lists)…and on and on. How many of us actually keep the resolutions we make? Who knows? Usually the resolve is strong for the first two weeks. Kind of like joining a gym after the first of the year, only to go back to old coach potato habits when the urge to “renew” loses its fervor.
Where did the tradition to “resolve” come from? Oprah Winfrey once said on national television that she made it her duty to ask God for one thing every New Year’s Eve, and then she tried to practice that “thing” all year long. One year, she asked for patience; another year, acceptance. Still another year, forbearance. But how do these drives to do better, even to the point of re-inventing ourselves, take root?
A variety of bloggers on the Internet seem to put the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions a fairly recent phenomenon. History.com reminds us that the early Roman calendar only had 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning a the vernal equinox. Talk about complicated. How ever did the early Romans celebrate birthdays?!
Later in the 8th century before Christ, two more months (January and February) were added to the calendar after a full-blown consultation with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of the day. The Julian calendar came into being about 46 B.C. at the behest of Emperor Julius Caesar. “Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year,” notes the bloggist, “partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties.” Parties it seems have predated just about everything, including the Gregorian Calendar which was established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, and is used by most countries around the world to this day.
But even the early Babylonians made New Year’s resolutions. The most popular resolution at the time? “To pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.”
Fast-forward several millennia and we are still making resolutions, and adding some traditions of our own. In the United States, what would New Year’s Eve be like without the Waterford crystal ball being lowered over Times Square at the stroke of midnight? Thanks to television and modern communication, millions of people around the world revel with the thousands who gather under New York’s Jumbotron to watch the iconic 12 foot-in-diameter orb, weighing nearly 12,000 pounds descend over the Big Apple. Only in America!
Should anyone resolve to have “luck” in the New Year, he needs only to look at the tradition of the “common folk” who celebrated on farms and in small towns with family and friends, often into the wee small hours of the morning. For early-to-bedders on Dec. 31, there is usually the faint recollection of horns, fireworks and even pots and pans banging in the distance. It was once believed the first visitor of the new day would bring good or sometimes bad luck, causing family members to sometimes peek through the key hole before opening the door.
Many Americans don’t want to tempt their luck, so they consume black-eyed peas and ham as a symbol of “all good things to come in the New Year.” Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable considered a sign of prosperity; also rice…and of course bubbly beverages.
Champagne sales, the news tells us, dropped 5% in most countries during the last decade and the world-wide recession…but not in the US. We party hardy until our dying day. So, let’s raise our glasses in unison and bid the old year adieux. Let’s resolve this brand New Year to live in peace and harmony; eat better, exercise more and make a difference in our communities doing what we can, one day at a time, for the next 365 days.
At GreenAcres, we’ll be open all day Monday just in case you forgot to stock up on black-eyed peas. We raise a glass and offer a toast to YOU our faithful friends and customers:
Happy New Year Wish
My Happy New Year wish for you
Is for your best year yet,
A year where life is peaceful,
And what you want, you get.
A year in which you cherish
The past year’s memories,
And live your life each new day,
Full of bright expectancies.
I wish for you a holiday
With happiness galore;
And when it’s done, I wish you
Happy New Year, and many more.
By Joanna Fuchs