Max and I have a relaxed attitude to this whole New Year’s Resolutions thing. We like to set our hurdles low.
I thought that “eat less pie” was an acceptable target for me in 2015. For Max “stay awake between meals” would be a good challenge.
“My New Year’s Resolution List usually starts with the desire to lose between ten and three thousand pounds.”
So, where did all this hoohah about New Year’s resolutions come from, anyway?
It goes way back. We can blame the ancient Babylonians who used to make formal promises at the beginning of each year to pay their debts and return borrowed items. What a concept.
On the other hand, Babylonian festivals lasted an exhausting eleven days so they may have invented the whole resolution thing because they ran out of alternatives like Sumerian Twister and Ziggurat limbo.
In 154 BC, the Roman senate declared January 1st to be the start of the New Year.
Up until then, New Years was a floating holiday usually celebrated in March.
Having set the date, the Romans associated the season with their god Janus – the god of doorways, dontcha know.
Janus was unique among the Roman gods in that he had one face on the front of his head and one on the back.
The Romans imagined him looking forward into the future and backward into the past. Or maybe he was a politician. Bada boom, snorf snorf.
Anyway, the Romans would annually promise Janus that they would clean up their acts and do better in the coming year.
Seems that every major religion and civilization has embodied some annual resolution-making period. Apparently we are hard-wired to make promises that we can not keep.
The winners in the New Year’s Resolution category were the knights of the Medieval era who took their “Peacock Vows” at New Years to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
You will no doubt remember that it was Jacques de Longuyon who, in 1312, wrote “The Vows of the Peacock.” It was one of the most popular romances of the 14th century, better than Twilight, and would have been on Amazon Prime had Kindles been available. The book, actually a chanson, introduced the concept of the Nine Worthies.
The Worthies were nine historical, scriptural and legendary personages who personify the ideals of chivalry as were established in the Middle Ages.
In French they are called Les Neuf Preux, meaning “Nine Valiants.” We’ll just call them the “Nine Worthy Dudes.”
The Nine Worthy Dudes include three good pagans: Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, three good Jews: Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus, and three good Christians: King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon who became famous for his tiny cubes of dehydrated soup stock.
These Dudes, in the aggregate, represented to the average medieval male, all facets of the perfectly chivalrous warrior.
It’s perfectly understandable, then, that less worthy knights would, at New Year’s, interrupt their quaffing of mead and eating of poached partridge to place their iron-clad hands on a peacock and make wholly unattainable promises to be more like the Nine Dudes in the year ahead.
Of course, each year the resolution would come to naught and heaping quantities of crow, remorse and guilt would take the place of the mead and partridges. This was much like what happens today.
For example, a 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.
That 88% number sounds suspicious to me. Frankly, I suspect 12% lied even though the kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol, when they do the Bristol Stomp.
Thing is, even though we fail with the regularity of an incontinent coffee drinker in a Metamucil factory, we keep making more and more resolutions.
At the end of the Great Depression, only about a quarter of American adults formed New Year’s resolutions while at the start of the 21st century, about 40% did which, coincidentally, is close to the share of folks (38%) who declare they absolutely never make resolutions.
Our resolutions are certainly more modest than in the 1300s.
Their top goal was to survive rat infestations and cries of “Bring out your dead!” whereas in 2014 the top 10 American resolutions were:
1 – Lose Weight
2 – Get Organized
3 – Spend Less, Save More
4 – Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5 – Stay Fit and Healthy
6 – Learn Something Exciting
7 – Quit Smoking
8 – Help Others in Their Dreams
9 – Fall in Love
10 – Spend More Time with Family
Max needs to focus on #1. He’s been putting on the ounces of late and tips the scales at a whopping 16 pounds.
It’s going to be tough putting him on a diet because he has mastered the “starving Maltese look” which consists of staring at the AJF or me and pretending he will soon expire unless gifted with a tasty jerky treat or poi cookie.
In a battle of wills, the Malt usually wins.
As for me, I hate to admit it, but I’ve already failed at that “eat less pie” resolution.