A New Year – A Fresh Start

A fresh start – that’s how many people all over the world see the New Year. January 1 for many is a time of reflection and evaluation which frequently results in some new goals along with some of last years goals that weren’t reached. Although we can set goals or resolutions any day of the year, the New Year seems to motivate many people to set and even write out their resolutions. With them written and in full view, it’s more likely they won’t vanish into thin air along with the last verses of “Auld Lang Sine” sung on New Years Eve with friends and family. As I visited around the community and asked permission to share some of our neighbors New Year’s resolutions, I learned that there are almost as many people who don’t make resolutions as there are people who do. I was told by one gentleman that, “I don’t make them any more. I never seem to keep them so why bother.”  Another individual said, “I set goals when I need them, not just at the beginning of the year. If it’s June and I decide I want to accomplish something, I write it down and then go for it.” Regardless of your personal philosophy on New Years resolutions, the beginning of a New Year does frequently lend itself to change. As I spoke with others about the New Year, I began to wonder who started the tradition in the first place. I was surprised to discover that the first New Years Day celebration was celebrated in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. It was not celebrated on January 1, but on the first new moon - first visible crescent after the first day of spring. It actually makes more sense to celebrate a New Year in the spring when all of nature is beginning to come alive again – farmers are planting their seeds and the blossoms on all the trees and flowers are just beginning to pop. January has no astronomical or agricultural significance. So what happened that changed the time of year for this celebration? It seems that the ancient calendar was continually being tampered with by the various emperors to satisfy some political or personal preference. With all the tampering, the calendar soon was completely out of synch with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, in 153 BC, the Roman Senate declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. Although this holiday has been celebrated in one way or another all over the world, it has only been considered a holiday by Western nations for the past 400 years. New Years Eve and New Years Day has accumulated some unique traditions over time. The New Years resolution tradition dates back to the early Babylonians.  In ancient times, the most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. The first Tournament of Roses Parade – which is played in hundreds of thousands of American homes on New Years Day – was in 1886. The parade participants decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop in California. The first Rose bowl football game was played as part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, but was quickly replaced by Roman Chariot races the following year. It wasn’t until 1916 when football returned as the sports centerpiece for the holiday. There are even traditional foods to be eaten on New Year Day, if you happen to be a bit superstitious.  In parts of the United States, consuming black-eyed peas served with either hog jowls or ham is considered good luck. . Hog and its meat are symbols of prosperity in some cultures. Cabbage is another good luck vegetable that is consumed on New Years Day by many. The green leaves are considered symbols of paper currency and therefore a sign of prosperity. In some regions, rice is considered lucky if eaten on New Year’s Day. Other cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck. A ring is symbolic of something coming full circle to complete a year’s cycle. For example, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Years Day will bring good luck. I wonder how many Dunkin Donut businesses are open on New Years in Holland. The top 10 most popular New Years Resolutions are: 1.    Lose weight and get in better physical shape 2.    Stick to a budget 3.    Debt Reduction 4.    Enjoy more quality time with family and friends 5.    Find my soul mate 6.    Quit smoking 7.    Find a better job 8.    Learn something new 9.    Volunteer and help others 10.    Get organized Are you ready to hear what your neighbors want to achieve in 2008? Every once in a while over the course of the next year, check in with one or more of your friends to see how they are doing with their resolution. Happy New Years!

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