Are you in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions? If so, you are not alone. Nearly half of the American people own up to making resolutions but very few actually keep them.
According to History.com, the ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year – though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted.
During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions.
If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor – a place no one wanted to be.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year.
Now popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African-American denominations and congregations, watch night services held on New Year’s Eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves and focus purely on self-improvement – which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on.
According to recent research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon – after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.
We asked a sampling of mountain residents what resolutions they were making and what hopes and dreams they have for 2021. Here are their answers.
Poet Candace Pearson: I resolve to find new ways and collaborations to bring poetry and art to the community, pandemic or not.
Artist John Arthur of Mystwood Gallery: I resolve to get my new coloring book, “Slightly Strange and Wonderfully Weird,” published and to launch a new website for the store.
Chris Chey, who moved to Crestline this year from Long Beach: I resolve to never go back. The country and the forest are where I was meant to be, I want to never look back and always be forward looking.
Petra Franco of Crestline: I resolve to continue to think positively.
Marci Collar of the Crest Forest Senior Citizens Thrift Shop: I resolve to try harder, encouraging masks and sanitizing everything, to keep this thrift shop open so we can serve the community. I never realized how many we truly help until this year. We need to follow the rules to stay open.
Author Joan Johnson: I resolve to get my house in order for all the company I will invite over when the virus disappears.
Uncle Mott: I firmly resolve to make no resolutions.
Crestline Chamber of Commerce President Louis Boehle: I resolve to face the new year positively and with optimism for our community’s future.
Steven Knox of Encompass Gifts: I resolve to do more mining, seeking minerals and rocks for the store and to look for treasure in Arizona.
Designed by Faith owner Vicki Vargas: I resolve to be the best possible me, in health, attitude and to be a positive influence on those around me.
Historian Rhea-Frances Tetley: I resolve, no matter how goofy I look, to wear my mask or shield during this pandemic to protect others when I’m out in public.
Jeff Heisler of Heisler Theater: Heisler Theater’s New Year’s resolution is to have three shows: one original premiere, a new Halloween show and A Christmas Carol, which we will have cast by this summer so that we can get back on stage, post-vaccine, and entertain our mountain community.
Holland Lowe, executive director of Operation Provider: My hopes are to have unification among the people of the United States of America! I’m so tired of the division right now in 2020; it’s painful to watch and hear or read! My dream is to see less hunger and homelessness throughout the world. Operation Provider is doing a small part to help and make a difference. It just takes one act of kindness to make a big difference if we all take notice of the pain scattered all around us! Love and kindness are what it takes. Care for each other. Stretch out a hand or lift someone up with a kind word. Give away a smile – those are free! The bottom line is God is love and, with Him in your heart, these things will come easy! Happy New Year 2021!
Cathy Kay, president of Soroptimist International of Rim of the World: The things that have been lost, I wish to regain – with vigor!
Gary Lopez of Crestline: My New Year’s resolution is to be more active with the chamber and continue to build community and camaraderie in town and to create more community events and activities that bring people together.
Jennifer Celise Hurlbut of Running Springs: This year, I resolve to “put my mask on first.” No, not to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, although I will keep masking as long as necessary. In case of emergency on an airplane, we’re instructed to put oxygen masks on ourselves before we help others. If we don’t, we’ll run out of air and won’t be able to help at all. Self-care isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity and should be a priority. I’ll make my basic physical, mental and emotional needs a priority so that I can take better care of my family and others.
Architectural author Diane Wilk of Lake Arrowhead: Our family is resolving to eat more vegetables.
Kathy Creighton, manager of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Chamber of Commerce office: Focus on the positive. Learn from the negative. Make new friends and cherish my family.
Attorney Geoffrey Hopper: All the normal wishes including good health, peace and love. It is also our sincere hope that we, as a people, can become more united through an open communication of ideas. While we may respectfully disagree with one another, we can agree to disagree and maybe even, if appropriate, agree. When we stop asking, we stop learning.
Penny Shubnell, treasurer of the Crest Forest Senior Citizens: Growing old is a gift. I resolve to live that gift every day to the fullest.