Traditions and resolutions for the New Year

2007 has dawned, and you may be among those who have made one or more New Year's resolutions.

Among the more common resolutions are to lose weight, to quit smoking, etc. Some people succeed and others fail at keeping them.

Have you ever wondered about the history of New Year's resolutions? I did a bit of research on the Internet last week to satisfy my curiosity and will share what I found out.

Wilstar.com/holidays/newyear.htm and adoptionworld.org/kid/newyear.html were two sites I visited. Much of the information on them was duplicated, indicating the same people operate both sites.

The Kansas City Public Library Web site at www.kclibrary.org/guides/localhistory/index.cfm offers a more condensed version of the same information found on the first two sites.

Babylonians first observed the new year about 4,000 years ago. About 2000 BC, they celebrated the start of a new year on what now is March 23, close to the start of our spring.

It was the time for planting of new crops and seemed a logical choice for the observance.

On the other hand, Jan. 1 had neither agricultural nor astronomical importance in ancient times. It was an arbitrary date chosen in some civilizations for the observance of a new year.

A Babylonian New Year's celebration lasted 11 days. The Romans also observed the start of a new year toward the end of March, although different emperors changed the calendar so much that it soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

About 153 BC, the Roman Senate righted the calendar again by declaring Jan. 1 to be the start of a new year. Western civilizations have celebrated New Year's Day on Jan. 1 for about 400 years now.

While we often say we're going to lose weight or quit smoking, early Babylonians made their most popular resolution to return borrowed farm equipment. Among ancient Romans, the most popular resolution was to seek forgiveness from enemies of past years.

After health-related issues, financial resolutions are the second choice in today's society. Some of those are to increase savings, conquer debt and stop excessive spending.

Resolutions around relationships are the third most popular today.

They include repairing fractured relations with family members and friends, trying to exercise more patience with annoying co-workers, and improving communication skills with everyone.

The Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena, Calif., has been a New Year's tradition since 1886. Its original purpose was to celebrate the ripening of the state's orange crop.

The Rose Bowl football game first was played as part of the celebration in 1902. Roman chariot races replaced it the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the centerpiece to the festival.

Tradition has long played a role in the observance of a new year, with people believing who they spent time with or what they ate on the first day determining their "luck" for the coming year.

For example, it once was thought the first visitor of the new year would bring good or bad luck for the rest of the year. A tall, dark-haired man dropping in was said to be very lucky.

New Year's foods also have a bearing on what type year one can expect. Some cultures believe anything shaped like a ring brings good luck because it symbolizes the completion of a year's cycle by "coming full circle." That is one reason why the Dutch believe in eating doughnuts on New Year's Day.

Some Americans like to dine on black-eyed peas and add hog jowls or ham to the plate. The hog and its meat is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity.

Cabbage leaves are another sign of prosperity to some people and rice is a popular item in some regions.

Well, enough about the history behind traditions and resolutions. I hope 2007 gets off to a good start for you, whether or not you make any New Year's resolutions.