Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send thoughts and comments to luap.jkt at gmail, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.

3.1.11

Resolved: Fresh Resolutions

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. They are pretty much forgotten within hours of making them, and nothing about some magical date is going to change behavior that has taken years to acquire. And once bronken, I start to get depressed because I have failed at my earnest intentions, and that just leads to Xanx abuse and a methadone habit that is just one more resolution to break next year.

So better to stop before it starts, I always say.

What I decided years ago was to make resolutions that can't be broken, which protects my fragile self-esteem and gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling a victory every year.

So examples? Well, this year I have resolved to eat something. I resolved to get my hair cut. I resolved to change the sheets on the bed this year. I've resolved to brush my teeth, read a book and watch more than one movie before 2012.

The beauty of this scheme is that I've already kept most of my resolutions, and it's only January 3rd. I have kept my promises to myself, built of my fagile self-esteem and I feel like a winner all at the same time!

One thing that has always mystified me, though, is why January 1st? Of all the cosmically and strologically significant dates trough-out the year, why the dead of northern winter, and if it must, then why not winter solstice or something like that? After all, January 1st has become one of the few, if not the only truly global holidays, even though there are half a dozen other new year celebrations throughout the year.

Turns out the answer is a complete jumble of different traditons. Of course, the damn Romans figure into this, as they do in just about everything, it seems. To begin with, the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking at the future and the other lokking at the past. He was the god of, among other things, doors and new beginnings. So far so good.

Now, it happens that European christians in the Middle Ages drwq up calendars by writing the months in columns beginning with January. After all, it was named ofter the god of new bigginings, right? Kind of like the convention of starting weeks on Sunday or Monday, depending on how your personal calendar was designed.

Now, under the old Julian calendar, the year would have started on January 14, by our current reckoning.. When the calendar was reformed by Pope Gregory XIII, in the 1100s, it whacked off 11 days to move some feasts back to their traditional dates of celebration (they had shifted over time since the Julian calendar didn't correct for the quarter day left over each year). The Russian and Greek Orthodox chruches still use the Julian calendar, which is why they celebrate Christmas on January 6th and New Year's on January 14th.

So that's part of the story. The other part is those whacky pagans in northern Europe that had a holiday called Yule. Yule was/is a winter festival whose central idea is 'reviving the Sun' during the darkest part of the northern solar cycle. It involved, among other things, setting up evergreen trees, burning special logs, lots of eating and drinking, setting out food for the house-elf (Harry Potter anyone?), and exchanging gifts on the last day of the holiday, which was what? You guessed it. New Year's day.

Most of those practices have been absorbed into what most people today think of as Christmas traditions. The house-elf has been replaced by Santa Claus, thanks to Coca-Cola. The exchange of small, carved, magical figurines has been replaced with an orgy of consumer secularism. But, the basics are still there.

Ultimately, what we have here is a fusion of Roman, Celtic pagan and even Asian traditions. After all, the use of fireworks, horns and other noise-makers is an old Asian ctustom to scare off evil spirits. Obviously, the holiday has become a global one because it incorporated somethng from so many different traditions.

We can't forget that for the purposes of business and accounting, you have to start the year somewhere, so you have a cut-off point and a roll-over point. Since Janus was the god of new beginnings, heck, just as well to choose January 1st. Nice thing about Indonesia is we get four New Year holidays. The next is March 3rd, for Imlec, the Chinese New Year. The there's the Hindu and Muslim new years coming up later. About the only one we don't get here is the Jewish New Year.

It's always been amazing to me how the Romans have gotten their paws into just about everything everywhere. How did they do that? And why do we still have months named after Julius and Augustus? And why are the last four months of the year named after Roman numbers, and the wrong ones at that?! I guess it's for the same reason our days are named after heavenly bodies and Norse gods, or that there are seven days in a week because that was how many things moved in the sky when the Babylonians looked up. So many vestiges of ancient things, and we so rarely think about them.

Everything old is new again, I guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your own view of The Far Side.