New Year's is the closest thing to being the world's only truly global public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts.
In waves of celebrations travel across the globe; whether it is the glittering ball in Times Square or a giant cheese wedge in Plymouth, Wisconsin, champagne flutes clink and kisses are exchanged as countless people toast the New Year.
New Year's Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar used in ancient Rome. With most countries using the Gregorian calendar as their main calendar. January 1 on the Julian calendar currently corresponds to January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, and it is on that date that followers of some of the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the New Year.
So where did all these traditions and resolutions start?
The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring) around what is now March 23, although they themselves had no written calendar.
The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.
The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.
The Romans tradition of the New Year's goes all the way back to Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar, via their solar calendar which put it in late March.
As their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors it soon became out of synchronization with the sun. So in order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year.
But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, (who developed a calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had) established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It established January 1 as the new year. However, in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.
In the Middle Ages, Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25, the birth of Jesus. Then they changed it to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation. In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar, and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1.
The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. Some cultures have lunar calendars, however. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon.
The Chinese use a lunar calendar. Their new year begins at the time of the first full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius- sometime between January 19 and February 21.
It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year's resolutions and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since. The early Christians believed the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the new year.
Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.
Noisemaking and fireworks on New Year's eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck.
Legend has it that the Chinese made the first fireworks in the 800s, filling bamboo shoots with gunpowder and exploding them at the New Year with the hope that the sound would scare away evil spirits. According to tradition, Marco Polo brought this technology back to Europe.
It's fair to say, however, that the origins of fireworks are shrouded in smoke; the China story is widespread, and possibly true, but fireworks may in fact have developed in India or the Arab world. Fireworks became known in Europe during the 1300s, probably after returning Crusaders brought them from the East.
Although the date for New Year's Day is not the same in every culture, it is always a time for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming year.
Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."
Mark Twain commenting on New Year's Day
In an effort to make this next year better than the last, millions vow to kick bad habits and improve themselves .
Unfortunately, most people make resolutions with the best intention of following through on them. However they usually do not get through March before they either forget the resolutions or put them off for “lack of time”. It's hard to change old habits, most people make resolutions and set goals either to start doing something on a daily basis or to stop doing something as long as they can.
A University of Washington study in 1997 found 47 percent of the 100 million adult Americans who make resolutions give up on their goals after two months. This figure has grown to 80 percent in the past decade, according to recent research completed at the University of Minnesota.
There are quite a few different sources claim to know what the top New Year's resolutions are that people make each year and the United States government is no exception!
According to the U.S. Government these are Popular New Year's Resolutions
- Lose Weight/Get Fit/Eat Right
- Manage Debt/Save Money
- Get a Better Job
- Get a Better Education
- Drink Less Alcohol
- Quit Smoking
- Reduce Stress
- Take a Trip
- Volunteer to Help Others
If those ‘government‘ resolutions aren't creative enough, or you like to think outside of the box, here are some other ideas for New Year's resolutions that are not included on the U.S. Government's list.
- Get Prepared – Write a plan, make a kit, stay informed and aware, practice
- Be responsible for yourself
- Become as self-reliant as possible
- Think for yourself
- Organize your living space or just Get Organized
- Stop procrastinating and wasting time
- Relieve the stress in your life
- Improve your relationships with your family and other people
- Enjoy Life
- Spend Time with Family
- Learn Something New
- Go Environmentally Conservative
- Improve Community
Tips for Achieving New Year's Goals
While the statistics are grim, our intentions to make 2012 the best year yet aren't doomed. Experts agree that writing down resolutions, sharing goals with others and tracking your progress; can help you achieve success.
- No matter which resolution is chosen, following through with achieving it can be a life changing experience for the better. Each year we are given an opportunity to start fresh with a new goal, and new inspiration of attaining it.
- While some have the best of intentions, and try to make a genuine effort to change whatever needs to be improved in order to enhance their quality of life, others often give up shortly after determining their goals.
- The percentage of those who actually reach their goals is quite low. Setting goals that are attainable is the best way to achieve success no matter what the resolution is. It is better to take small steps toward a goal than to set too big of a goal and give up altogether. Some change is better than none.
- Decide on what is attainable and then take actions to achieve it. For example, instead of making a goal to lose 30 pounds, make a goal to lose 5 pounds. Once that is achieved, set another goal of losing 5 more pounds, that way success can be achieved and continued.
Read on for more history on the traditions, celebrations and resolutions of old and new!!!
PS - Here are my resolutions:
Think for myself
Blaze my own path
Treat others as I wish to be treated
Get even more self-reliant
Be even more prepared for the unexpected
Don't settle for 'the lesser of evils' - Don't 'settle' period!