The cycle of life on Earth that repeats itself every 365 days is part of nature. The idea to count these cycles and to set a date to begin counting each new one is a human invention, as is celebration of each of these new beginnings.
The human race is not in complete agreement as to when a New Year starts: the Chinese and Jews use lunar calendars, which produce different starting days each year. The Jews confuse the matter even more, celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the world as the New Year in the fall and ignoring the first day of the Hebrew calendar year, which occurs in the spring. That most of the world has settled on what is the dead of winter for a majority of people as the beginning of the year seems counterintuitive. Don’t the early shoots and buds of spring seem more like a beginning than leafless branches or snow-covered streets?
Celebration traditions for any holiday might look strange to an anthropologist from another planet, but they make sense to us. People gather in groups and drink alcohol to mark many important occasions across cultures. No other celebration, however, can attract one million people to one spot in the middle of a small American island off the Atlantic Ocean or two million to a Brazilian beach.
Most holidays also have a religious aspect, and for the first day of the year, a secular holiday, spirituality has typically manifested itself in a pledge to be a better person or improve yourself or the world during the coming twelve months. Wikipedia’s sketchy but fact-filled article on New Year’s resolutions reports that the Babylonians and Romans made promises to their gods at the beginning of the year. Today, about 40% of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, most of them personal in nature.
While I think it’s important for people to improve their lives, and especially their health, I’m going to propose a number of possible New Year’s resolutions that also improve the world in which we live.
Here are some OpEdge New Year resolutions to consider:
- Don’t vote for anyone who questions human-caused global warming, evolution, the moral imperative to accept as many Syrian refugees as possible, same-sex marriage or a woman’s right to an abortion.
- Don’t vote for anyone who thinks lowering taxes on the wealthy produces more jobs; supports charter schools, subsidies for the oil and gas industry or privatization of government functions; or wants fewer or looser gun laws and environmental regulations.
- Write your representatives and all political candidates asking them to support lifting the cap on income assessed for Social Security taxes; strengthening gun control laws; raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; raising the gas tax and dedicating all the additional money raised to inner and inter-city mass transit; forcing all charter schools to have unionized teaching staffs; raising the minimum wage to $15.00/hour; forcing large corporations to repatriate their income; and creating an easy path to citizenship for undocumented aliens.
- Vote in every primary and general election.
- Attend at least one political rally in support of a progressive cause.
- Do not watch Fox News or listen to any radio station that carries Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.
- Start composting —you can store the composted materials in a plastic bag in your freezer until it’s convenient to dispose of it.
- Replace two car trips a week with mass transit, walking or bicycling.
- If you don’t bicycle or walk to work, go to work only in a vehicle carrying at least four people.
- Spend a half hour a day reading a history book that does not detail battles.
- Contribute money or time to one organization that is helping refugees of war.
- Speak up when someone at a social gathering starts spouting right-wing lies about the President, Hillary Clinton, minorities, crime, guns, abortion, gay marriage or any other issue.
I wish all my readers a prosperous and creative New Year!