A midnight kiss draws near and with every passing second the smell of alcohol assaults your senses while the person standing several millimeters in front of you puckers. Instead maybe you are the person sitting on a cushioned wooden bench with head bowed and hands clasped tightly together. Different cultures share one thing in common when it comes to the New Year, which is a time for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming year. In this post I would like to take a closer look at the New Year’s Resolutions phenomenon and celebrations that come with the passing of a year.
The definition of the word ‘Resolution’ according to Dictionary.com: the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc. This is the right definition to encompass what our New Year’s Resolution is…, but wait, what exactly is this thing called a New Year’s Resolution and where did it come from. According to Wikipedia.com, a New Year’s Resolution is a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults made New Year’s resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did. Now why is that? Why such a large jump in participation? Let us go back to the origins for a moment.
January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced Roman god who could look back on the previous year and past events as well as forward to the future and the New Year. Janus was also the patron and protector of arches, gates, doors, doorways, bridges, endings and beginnings. When the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, they no longer made resolutions that worshiped and gave offerings to Janus. Instead, they were replaced with resolutions that strived to be good to your fellow man and by praying and fasting. Christians were reluctant to participate in some of the New Year practices affiliated with the idolization and worship of the pagan god Janus. In contrast, the Puritans urged their children to skip the revelry and instead spend their time reflecting on the year past and contemplating the year to come. In this way they adopted again the old custom of making resolutions.
Now in today’s world of the fast paced, all digital 21st century, how did the New Year’s Resolution become wrapped up into drunken debauchery when the clock strikes midnight. I cannot in good conscience sit here and try to act ‘holier-than-thou’ because I have, in the past, participated in unsavory activities as the year began anew then woken up with a headache for the ages. But that still begs the question, where do we draw the line. Moderation is easier said than done. How do we celebrate the past and also give thanks for the future? How do we strive to be better human beings and help our fellow man yet also rejoice in the moment?
It is a fine tight-rope that we must walk as human beings. If we stray too far to the left or right then we face ridicule and annihilation. If we live our lives according to our own moral compass then we run the risk of falling over the edge of the map and into the abyss.
*** Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. ~ Mathew 7:14 ***