As the new year looms, and 2020 has been a tough one for many people, it’s time to make resolutions. Early records suggest that the first to promise improvements in the new year were the Babylonians 4,000 years ago. When Julius Caesar in 46 BC altered the calendar, January 1st was designated the beginning of the New Year. The God Janus is associated with doorways and aches and has two faces, one looking back and one to the future. Early Christians held special services to consider past sins and make promises to do better in the new year. Clergy wanted to provide a spiritual alternative to raucous celebrations.
The roots of the New Year’s resolution are in religion but in modern times the tradition has become secular. It’s just a convenient time to mark one’s determined vow to do better. Success at making actual progress is spotty. Deciding to improve and stick with it, is harder than making the resolution and it’s easy to backslide. Ask the gyms (pre-COVID) why they have such great deals for annual memberships in January.
Most resolutions are made in good faith but new routines don’t “take.” Personally, I have thought of, and even made promises to myself for the new year. Like the majority of people, I’ve been an abject failure. My house is not cleaner, I haven’t written every day, I haven’t conquered my habit of procrastinating.
That isn’t to say one shouldn’t make resolutions. The one time that I kept mine, was New Year’s Eve 46 years ago. I quit smoking. Quit and haven’t looked back. It wasn’t easy and my dearest beloved, walked by as I was writhing in the throes of withdrawal and blew Cigarello smoke in my face. Fortunately, for me, once I became a non-smoker, I soon didn’t feel the craving. I know that’s not true for everyone but I haven’t thought of cigarettes for years. Now the smoke bothers me; my eyes itch and redden.
As luck would have it, smoking has made some people pariahs, relegated to dingy corners outside to indulge their habit. The health concerns associated with the tars, nicotine, and other chemicals are much better researched. I quit before my children were born. I am very grateful for that; retroactive guilt is a nasty thing.
New Year’s resolutions? Sometimes, they do invoke change. 2020 has taught us all a bit about hardship, induced odd behaviour in others. Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year, Everyone.