New Year’s was not always celebrated on 1 January. Ancient cultures celebrated the New Year in mid-March with the planting of a new crop. It is said that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions. That would be more than 4000 years prior. They would hold a 12-day religious festival, which is believed to now be represented by the Twelve Days of Christmas from December 26 – January 5. This festival was called “Akitu.” During the festival either a new king was crowned or an affirmation of loyalty was presented to the current King. Promises to pay debts and return any objects they “borrowed” were given to the gods, such were the forerunners of promising to lose 20 pounds or be nicer to one’s spouse. 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.
After Julius Caesar switched the new year to January 1 (around 46 B. C.). January was named after the Roman god, Janus, whose two faces symbolically looked to the past and the future. The Romans, therefore, offered sacrifices to Janus, as well as made promises of loyalty and to perform honorably.
In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of the Methodist religion, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve. “Also known as 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.” [The History of New Year’s Resolutions]
Anyway, all these thoughts of New Year’s Resolutions had me thinking of what some of our favorite classic characters from literature might make as a resolution. Please feel free to add some of your own to the mix.
Macbeth – I resolve to ignore my wife’s “to do” list.
Hamlet – I resolve no longer to procrastinate.
King Lear – I promise not to allow arrogance to override my judgement.
Beatrice (in Much Ado About Nothing) – I promise to admit, if only to myself, that I wish to find a husband who will love me.
Leonato (in Much Ado About Nothing) – I resolve not to be easily influenced by others, instead trusting my own instincts.
The Sheriff of Nottingham – I resolve to rob the rich and keep the funds for myself.
Beowulf – I resolve to share a plant-based diet with Grendel and his mother.
Madame Bovary – I resolve no longer to assume the role of “Desperate Housewife.”
Jane Eyre – I resolve not to permit my sense of duty block my chance at happiness.
Lancelot – I resolve not to permit passion to guide my decisions.
Odysseus- I resolve to give up extended-stay vacations.
Achilles – I resolve to purchase Duck Boots before my next battle.
Romeo – I resolve to add the Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number to my phone. 1-800-273-8255
Oedipus – I resolve to break my addiction to the psychic network hotline.
Robinson Crusoe – I promise next time to obey my father.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy – I resolve to conquer my resentful temper.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet – I promise no longer to be blind to Mr. Darcy’s £10,000 per year.
Frankenstein – I promise to accept the responsibilities for all my novel’s evil; the fault of the destruction rests at my feet, not the monster’s.
Charlotte Lucas – I resolve, if the situation ever proves itself again, not to place security over marital happiness.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh – I promise this year to allow my inner “kitten,” rather than my inner “grande dame,” to make a regular appearance.
Mr. Rochester – I promise not to assume the role of “Beast” to Jane Eyre’s “Belle.”
Andrews (from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded) – I resolve that when I say “no” to my employer, I will not mean “maybe.”
Heathcliff – I promise to forgive those who meant to destroy me.
Anna Karenina – I promise never to rush for the train again.