New year, new opportunity

Dec. 31, 2013 @ 05:17 PM

If you raised a toast at midnight or otherwise rang in the New Year with anything from raucous celebration to quiet contemplation, you can owe a nod to Julius Caesar.

Aside from making the Ides of March a famous – or infamous – date, Caesar’s contribution to our sense of time was establishing in 46 BC the 12-month Julian calendar, the immediate predecessor to the Gregorian calendar with which we track the year today.

Caesar, as the History Channel’s website, history.com puts it, plotted his calendar by “consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time.” In rolling it out, he declared January 1 as the first day of the year “partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.”

That’s a tradition many of us will honor today, if we have not already in the days and hours leading up to this dawning of the 2,060th year since Caesar’s declaration. New Year’s Day is indeed a time to look back and revel in or rue – or something in between – the events and moments, the successes, failures and earnest efforts of the past 12 months.

And even though it’s as artificial a marker as there can be, there is a sense of new beginnings on this day, of approaching a year awash with fresh possibilities, new hopes and boundless opportunities.

Why not savor those thoughts, if only for a few hours?  We’re a country whose very foundational spirit celebrates the reset of careers, relationships and lives. If the spirit of the season gives you a second wind or reenergized enthusiasm, go for it.

For many, today is another respite from work, more contemplative than last week’s Christmas holiday. It’s a chance to savor the birth of another year with friends or family, to catch a breath and ponder those resolutions we make every year even if we know we will regret them or forget them well before the first signs of spring.

And turning again to history.com, we’re reminded we owe this practice to our forbearers in antiquity. “The practice of making resolutions for the new year,” the website recounts, “is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)”

Few of us have any borrowed farm equipment to repatriate these days, but virtually all of us have debts – not necessarily financial, but emotional and spiritual, too. We may not be able to pay them off this year, but today’s not a bad time to resolve to at least pay down the balance.

Happy New Year!