Welcome January 2019! A new year, a new beginning. A re-set, if you will.
We treat this new day in the New Year as the beginning of many things in our life. We make our New Year’s resolutions: we’re gonna get skinny, get rich, get a new car, get married, get drunk, get sober. You get the idea.
So how’d that work for you last year? How did you celebrate the New Year? Do you remember if you celebrated the New Year? Because we always want to celebrate—in big ways and small. Invite all your friends and celebrate in a big way, invite a few friends and reminisce. Go out, stay in—but celebrate this opportunity to “re-set.”
According to History.com, the earliest recorded New Year celebration dates back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For them, the first new moon following the vernal equinox, the date in late March with equal amounts of sunlight and darkness, was their beginning of the New Year.
But soon after becoming dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the calendar needed to be corrected. Introduced around the 7th century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and once again needed to be tweaked. Further adding to the problem, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or interfere with elections. Can you imagine? No mention of Russian involvement here, at least I don’t think there is.
It seems that Caesar and Sosigenes, his astronomer, failed to correctly calculate the value for the solar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days. Thus, an 11-minute-a-year error added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th century. Oops!
The Roman church became aware of the discrepancy so Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. Can you imagine the daunting task that must have been! But in 1582, the Gregorian calendar was ready to roll out, omitting 10 days for that year and establishing the new rule that only 1 out of every 4 centennial years should be a leap year. So that, my friends, is how we know to gather on Jan. 1 to celebrate the precise arrival of the New Year.
How did the tradition of making resolutions begin? According to Wonderopolis.org, the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. The month of January was named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. It seems that Janus had 2 faces, one looking forward and one looking backward, allowing him to look back on the past and forward to the future. The Romans thought that this afforded them the opportunity to be forgiven for their wrongdoings in the past, so they would make promises and give gifts believing that Janus would bless them for the future.
I think that’s a pretty accurate description as to how I approach the New Year. I think of all the things that were bad, that didn’t work in my favor and plot to improve things for the New Year. It would be my wish for those who have had an agonizingly awful one, that the New Year might be a way to bring closure and reawaken hope for them.
Each year I consciously think about what I want to re-set. I think we all hope this will be the year that we’ll lose weight, become more financially secure, better manage our time, create better work-life balance, be kinder, recycle, quit smoking, volunteer, get organized, make a difference.
My resolutions include all of the above (except I don’t smoke and I’m not good at recycling) and one more thing. I have dry cuticles. It’s annoying to always be picking at my nails and for the manicurist to point out this deficiency. I fret over this insignificant thing—a lot. So I have purchased yet another pricey cuticle cream and resolve to use it each day. I enter this New Year with hope and optimism.
Do all the things you do for good luck for the New Year—eat blackeye peas, greens, cornbread, pork, shoot off fireworks, toast with some bubbly, sing Auld Lang Syne—and be conscious of this opportunity for a fresh start. Be reflective, be determined, and perhaps even more important, be mindful of the many blessings and good fortune you already have. Celebrate!
I wish for each of you good luck for the coming New Year. Happy 2019!
Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
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