Tag Archives: Babylonians

Happy New Year

31 Dec

“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” Unknown

And so the time has come to say goodbye to 2010 and beckon in the new year with a wealth of resolutions that will never be kept. For at least two days we all hold out hope that by merely saying we’re going to do something we can make up for all the sins and misdemeanours of the preceding year. My favourites are those I make every year (see asterisked bullet below in particular).  I know I won’t keep them (never have) yet I persist in repeating them year in year out in the full knowledge that in 12 months time I will (again) kick myself rather hard in the shins. What I should be doing is resolving never resolve to make such fanciful resolutions. But, for auld lang syne, here are my resolutions for 2011:

  • Eat better
  • Sleep longer
  • Watch less TV – read more books
  • Bloody well swear less and hurry up about being more sodding patient
  • Do my Kegels (one for the ladies out there, especially the preggie ones – we don’t want our insides becoming outsides do we?)
  • Be nicer to Mr C&P*

How hard can it be? According to a recent poll in the US, 40% of people who made a resolution last year didn’t keep it, with the remaining 60% keeping it for part of the year. Those who kept a resolution for the whole year were obviously too busy being smug about it to take part in the poll.

If at this stage of the post-Christmas festivities you care to look any further back than the beginning of 2010, the history of new year celebrations can be traced to the Babylonians.  When they weren’t generally being clever and paving the way for civilisation, the Babylonians did something far more simple on New Year’s Eve – they returned something to a neighbour that they had borrowed. A lesson for us all – garden shears, cup of sugar, wife, daughter … but let’s not get drawn into the Ten Commandments, those most concrete of resolutions. Written in stone as they are.

More ‘recently’ in 153BC – and more in line with the modern new year – the Romans put the god Janus at the top of their calendar (January) and all things Janus became associated with the new year. Janus was the god of gates, doorways, beginnings, endings and time and with his two faces he could look both into past and into the future. New year was a time when Romans exchanged gifts and looked for forgiveness from their enemies. When it became a less selfless time – getting thinner, getting richer, doing more for me me me – is not quite clear.

Let’s not get cynical though – after all it is new year. A time for new beginnings, putting things right and, well, blah blah blah. I’ll leave the last, more upbeat, words to one of our greatest cultural icons [ahem], Oprah Winfrey:

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

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