We are a day away from a new year, putting the past behind us and starting fresh. I wondered what the history of New Year’s resolution was and why we do this. I love doing research and finding answers to my questions.
The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox (or the first day of spring). The Babylonian celebration lasted for eleven days. Starting the new year after the first day of spring makes more sense to me than starting it in the middle of the barren season of winter. Spring is a season of rebirth, planting new crops and of blossoming life beginning.
The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar.
During the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the new year, but the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. As Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own observances concurrent with the many festival and celebrations that they felt were pagan. During the Middle Ages the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision by some denominations.
January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.
So how did resolutions start? In Babylonian times gifts were given that were focused on cultivating the earth, but the Roman’s took it to another level. In 153 B.C., Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. Janus is seen with two faces and could look back on past events and forward to the future – thus Janus became the ancient symbol of resolutions. At the beginning of each year the Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and exchanged gifts. The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year’s gifts.
I have been thinking as to what my resolutions are going to be. I heard this morning on the news that people that tell others their resolutions tend to stick to them, probably because others check up on them. I would love to exercise more, but not sure if that would make the list – with all that I am involved in I am not sure how to make more time in the day – I think with cleaning houses – I get a pretty good workout, but would really like to start running again.
I really think that my resolutions are going to be focused on food and quality of life. I am going to make a conscious effort to cut out refined and processed food from our diets, but that will take some time to accomplish. My other big resolution is going to be to allow myself more self quality time – trying to go to bed at an earlier hour – so that I wake up fresh and taking time to just sit – not to always have to be doing something. So it is out there in the public realm – now let’s see if I can do it!
If you are looking for some ideas – I came across this list of green resolutions: http://www.ecofabulous.com/?s=green+resolutions
During my research I came across the origins of several New Years traditions.
The toast: Toasting can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who would pour wine, to be shared among those attending a religious function, from a common pitcher. The host would drink first, to assure his guests that the wine was not poisoned. Poisoning the wine was a fairly common practice in ancient times, designed to do away with one’s enemies. In those days the wine was not as refined as it is today so a square of burned bread (toast) would be floated in the wine bowl and then eaten by the last person to drink. The bread was put there to absorb the extra acidity of the wine in order to make it more palatable. Eventually, the act of drinking in unison came to be called a toast, from the act of “toasting” or putting toast into the wine.
The kiss: The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history. As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the new year.
New Years Meal: Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.
When I was living in the South I started the tradition of having black eyed peas, collard greens (or some type of greens) and rice – and I will be doing the same this year!
Wishing you all a wonderful and safe New Year filled with happiness, love, family and friends! I know it is corny, but I love saying it – see you all next year!