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Revisiting the culture of New Year’s resolutions

We have resolved, decided not to be persuaded by other beliefs that we find preposterous, if bizarre, in our autochthonous culture: The breeding, the politeness, the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively as urbanity and sophistication in this Land of the Morning.

We find it ridiculous and nonsensical that there should be New Year’s resolutions, in the first place, like it is the only time we can promise to do good, do better, or completely stop something bad we have been doing.

In the second place, can there not be Resolutions at other points in the Gregorian calendar?

If there can be, what’s the point in making New Year’s resolutions—one, two three, or even a dozen Resolutions that would not be followed to the letter anyway, or resolutions that would be forgotten, intentionally, when the fireworks that ushered in the first few hours of the New Year had returned to the Cimmerian shade of the ground?

This is not to ridicule those who still make New Year’s resolutions every beginning of a year, or a few days before it. Not at all.

It is just that, from where we are, and given the culture in our heartbeats, we find it laughable, contemptible and daffy that we should make such New Year’s resolutions when we could silently resolve to perhaps do better, or completely stop something unnecessary that had been in our manners any time of 2019 or any other year.

Comical tradition

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions—most common in the Western Hemisphere although this is now observed in some countries in the Eastern Hemisphere—dates back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome.

Documents say Janus had two faces —one looking forward, the other looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future.

According to this tradition—verily a concoction in the Western world— the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year.

This was the symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.

Interestingly, the Romans also believed Janus—was perhaps a relative of Enero by consanguinity or by affinity?—could forgive them for their wrongdoings in the previous year.

And the Romans would give gifts and make promises, believing Janus would see this and bless them in the year ahead.

There are those who are carried by the tradition and start the year with hope and with promises to be more successful, more productive, and more adjectives than properly just substance.

In any case, there are some who suggest the following when making resolutions:

Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible.

Popular goals

Popular goals include resolutions to:

• Improve physical well-being: Eat healthy food, lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alchohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails, get rid of old habits.

• Improve mental well-being: Think positive, laugh more often, enjoy life

• Improve finances: Get out of debt, save money, make small investments.

• Improve career: Perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business

• Improve education: Improve grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language), study often, read more books, improve talents

• Improve self: Become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent, perhaps watch less television, play fewer sitting-down video games

• Take a trip

• Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity, volunteer to work part-time in a charity organization

• Get along better with people, improve social skills, enhance social intelligence

• Make new friends

• Spend quality time with family members

• Settle down, get engaged/get married, have kids

• Pray more, be more spiritual

• Be more involved in sports or different activities

• Spend less time on social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr etc.)

There are those who argue against making New Year’s resolutions, given that many if not most are unreachable targets and demand extremely high expectations.

At the same time, resolutions made in January can’t even reach the track line in June, or even as early, or probably already late, as March 19 when the swallows return to Capistrano, in California or Saint Joseph’s Day in the calendar.

But do we need a New Year—in this case 2019—to make the resolutions? Beat the deadline.

(HBC is an academic who writes speeches for senior government officials and former Executive Council Member of the 13-man Committee on Literary Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.)

Topics: New Year’s resolutions
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