New Year’s Celebrations
The celebration of a new year in ancient times would be either at the beginning of a crop season or during harvest. It would welcome spring or autumn. Later, when calendars came into use, a new year would be marked by either a lunar or a solar calendar.
4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians were the first to formally celebrate a new year. This was in mid-March during the spring solstice when the crops were planted. It was a 12-day festival known as Akitu. During this time, the Babylonians would welcome a new king or place their loyalty to the existing king. They would repay loans, return things they took from others. This tradition found its way when Emperor Akbar made Pahela Baishakh the New Year's Day through which hal khata would be opened to mark a "Black Friday".
New Year's celebrations of the ancient Egyptians pre-dates Akitu. It was celebrated when the River Nile was at its peak, blessing the Nile delta with silt that gave birth to the land and the crops. The ancient Persians celebrated the New Year, greeting spring during the spring solstice. It was called Nowruz (new day). The celebration exists till this day in Iran and many parts of Central Asia. The Chinese New Year that originated during the Shang Dynasty, 3,000 years ago, also greeted spring. The Bengali New Year, Nobanno, greeted late autumn when the Aman crops would be harvested.
Julius Caesar marked January 1 as the New Year in honour of the god, Janus who had two heads. One head would look back in the past and one into the future. December 31 and January 1 have become the universal New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, respectively.
Making a new year's resolution is the second part of the festivity. The tradition is as old as the Akitu of the Babylonians. Like previous years, you and I will be making resolutions. In recent times, the most popular New Year's resolutions have been to exercise more, lose weight, learn a new skill or hobby, save money, quit a bad habit etc. Maybe you and I made a similar resolution last year.
Nine out of ten people who make resolutions on December 31 in the United States fail to keep them within one or two months into the New Year. Maybe you and I have also experienced the same. Why could this be happening?
Think carefully. Human emotions and habits aren't like light bulbs you can turn on and they'll remain on for a whole year. To change habits, one needs mental stamina. How much stamina do you have? Only you know the answer to this question. Once you know the answer, then you can realistically set a resolution that you'll be able to keep.
Let's do a "backward induction". Today is December 31, 2020. Go back one year to December 31, 2019. Remember the promises you made that day? In hindsight, reflect on the entire of 2020. Where and how did you make a mistake such that you couldn't keep your resolution? Only you know the true story. Fast forward to today. Make a realistic pledge to a new year's resolution.
Trying to be happy is the prayer this Echoes makes for you in the coming year and beyond. Happiness is more important than many things in life.