Happy New Year!
Today marks not only the first day of 2019, the birth of a new year, but the rebirth of countless people around the world who strive to keep “New Year’s Resolutions.”
Funny – Humans have been making resolutions in some form or another for at least 4,000 years, writes one contributor to the History channel.
Back then, the Babylonians (whose year began in what we’d consider mid-March, when crops were planted) made promises to the gods, expecting good fortune if their promises were kept throughout the year.
The Romans adopted this idea, as well, and the very month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, the two-faced god who faces both into the past and into the future, perhaps symbolizing both the reflection on the past year and the hope and promise of what the next year might bring.
The 1700s found Christianity adopting the practice of keeping night vigils of prayer and reflection, lasting all night into the morning on New Year’s Day – A practice that is still found in many communities, today.
We’re hardwired, it seems, to see beginnings of any kind – such as the start of a new calendar year – with mixtures of awe, hope, apprehension, and reflection. And, though now a secular tradition, we still strive to make promises to ourselves. Only about 8% of people keep their resolutions, apparently, but it’s striking that after all this time, we’re still making them, even if we know many will fall by the wayside.
The marked passage of time must affect us on a deep level, to spark the desire to make such promises.
This brings me to a poem by a favorite poet of mine, Billy Collins. In his brilliant way, he captures the universal with the mundane, and questions this new year’s day, and what it means to us all.
Is it a second birthday? Is it a day to dread, or to look forward to?
To me, it’s a time I know I can meditate on and re-dedicate myself to living wildly, blooming where I’m planted, showing gratitude and love to the Universe and to those around me, and keeping fresh and new the love I share with my husband.
What about you?
May you have the happiest of years, starting today. Happy New Year!
New Year’s Day by Billy Collins
Everyone has two birthdays
according to the English essayist Charles Lamb,
the day you were born and New Year’s Day—
a droll observation to mull over
as I wait for the tea water to boil in a kitchen
that is being transformed by the morning light
into one of those brilliant rooms of Matisse.
“No one ever regarded the First of January
with indifference,” writes Lamb,
for unlike Groundhog Day or the feast of the Annunciation,
New Year’s marks nothing but the pure passage of time,
I realized, as I lowered a tin diving bell
of tea leaves into a little ocean of roiling water.
I like to regard my own birthday
as the joyous anniversary of my existence,
probably because I was, and remain
to this day in late December, an only child.
And as an only child—
a tea-sipping, toast-nibbling only child
in a bright, colorful room—
I would welcome an extra birthday,
one more opportunity to stop what we are doing
for a moment and celebrate my presence here on earth.
And would it not also be a small consolation
to us all for having to face a death-day, too,
an X drawn through a number
in a square on some kitchen calendar of the future,
the day when each of us is thrown off the train of time
by a burly, heartless conductor
as it roars through the months and years,
party hats, candles, confetti, and horoscopes
billowing up in the turbulent storm of its wake.
from the book, “Ballistics,” © Random House 2008