By Benjamin New
Ok, the glasses have been raised. The cups of kindness have all been consumed. The old year given a swift boot. The new one viewed through blinkered bloodshot eyes. New Year as a holiday is an interesting one because it is celebrated globally. Most holidays are recognized only in some cultures or within the confines of a political map.
(Britain has no fireworks on July 4th.) Now such novel global cooperation must have roots in some great cosmic or astronomical truth, right? I mean we can't agree on which side of the road is best for driving on so it's remarkable to have universal agreement on a holiday. How did this happen?
The new year has been celebrated since man's prehistoric days, ( we know this because cave dwellers painted pictures of hunting, fire, and the recently discovered "Happy New Year" pointed hats, a likeness of Dick Clark, and a boulder being dropped on Pre-Times Square....incidentally archeologists have determined that this boulder seems to have been inscribed with the words"Elect McCain"). But back then it was celebrated on the vernal equinox rather than what we now consider the first of the year.
The Romans were the first to recognize New Years Day on January first. Rather than mark the day of some significant astronomical or agricultural event, in 153 BC the Romans selected it because it was the day after elections in which the newly elected assumed their positions. (And ever since, those who elected them "assume the position" as well!).
Years later, Julius Caesar ( No relation to Sid) wanted to change the date to a more logical time, but that particular year on January 1, 45 BC it happened to be the date of a new moon. To change it would have been considered bad luck. He did, however, change the calendar system from the astronomically founded Egyptian solar calendar to the "Julian" calendar, named of course for himself. July, the month of Caesar's birth, was also named after him to memorialize him for his remarkable calendar reform! Yet right on up until 1582, Christian Europe continued to celebrate New Years Day on March 25. ( Holidays were not something to be "rendered unto Caesar"apparently).
Pope Gregory XIII instituted the additional calendar reforms bringing us the calendaring system of the day. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by Catholic countries immediately while the reformists, and most of the world were suspect of any papal policy, only adapted it after some time. Today most countries around the world have adopted this calendaring system. After all no one wants to be brought before the inquisition.
From primitive man to today's contemporary fashion conscious groups of individuals, regardless of the arbitrary date, the New Year's Day has been recognized as a day in which rites were performed to abolished the past so there could be a rejuvenation for the new year. Rituals included purgations, purifications, exorcisms, extinguishing and rekindling fires, masked processions (masks representing the dead), and general imbibing of intoxicants. Often exorcisms and purgations were performed with much noise as if to scare away the evil spirits. In China, Ying, the forces of light fought Yang, the forces of darkness with cymbals, noisemakers, and firecrackers.
I tried this on Dick Cheney but it only succeeded in annoying him.
Of course the ubiquitous New Year's Resolution is a tradition very much associated with purging the past and hoping for an improved future free of Tom Cruise. Personally I made one New Year's resolution many dropped balls ago and have kept it. It was to never make any more resolutions. Though here are some I would have made if I were inclined to do so. (If your looking for some, feel free to use these.)
- Let go of your feelings of guilt. Get more in touch with your inner sociopath
- Assume full responsibility for your actions, except the ones that are someone else's fault.
- Be yourself! Probably there is some culture that considers what you do normal.
- Use intuition! It sometimes makes up for lack of judgment or the absence of reason.
- You are one with your duality! Right or wrong!
- Honor and express all facets of your being regardless of state or local laws!
- Share your advice and experience! What's better than saying "I told you so"?
- Concern yourself not with solutions when a scapegoat will suffice.
- Don't waste time thinking of the past. Waste it worrying about the future!
- Procrastinate more! ...starting tomorrow.