Now that the hustle and bustle of our end-of-year holidays are behind us and I sit in my office composing this, the first Pop’s Perspective article for 2014, I want to take this opportunity to wish each of you a very Happy and Healthy New Year.

Even though I have never cared too much for the “newsy” articles, editorials or other publications that start with “WOW – I can’t believe another year (Season or Holiday, etc.) has passed”, I suppose these types of phrases are designed to let the reader know just how busy one has been or perhaps to the writer that time seems to keep accelerating as we travel through the ages.  To me these opening statements seem to say that one has slept through the event being discussed or that they are simply not prepared to move on into the next phase.  And I am a firm believer that being prepared for each succeeding life event is very important.

But let me move on to some perspectives on the “New Year”, it’s history, some traditions, and finally a few words about those ever eluding “New Year’s Resolutions”.

Not surprising, no one just woke up one morning and declared, “Hey – this is a New Year”!  No, civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each New Year for many centuries.  As far back as we can find information about the celebration of the New Year would be some 4000 years ago when Babylonians considered the New Year to be on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  So, while not tied to a specific date or calendar, the New Year was governed by a celestial occurrence and referred to the celebration as Atiku that lasted for 11 days and included multiple religious “happenings”.

Then, throughout history, different civilizations developed more and more sophisticated calendars and as time went on most New Year celebrations were tied to some recurring agriculture or astronomical event.  Then in 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar that became more and more like the modern Georgian calendar that is in use around the world today and instituted January 1 as the first day of the New Year.  Several other dates came into vogue as the start of the New Year but in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as the official start of the New Year.

As we know, many different customs and traditions surround the coming of the New Year.  For instance, before the modern day Times Square ball dropping, people celebrated there with a huge fireworks show as the culmination of the celebrations being held.  But in 1906 fireworks were banned and the beginning of today’s dropping of the ball was started.  Early versions included a 700 pound ball of iron and wood being lowered on a pole with a rope which has now become the modern day version of a ball 12 feet in diameter and weighing about 12,000 pounds being dropped.  The ball begins its decent at 11:59 PM, ticking off the last seconds of the old year and signaling the beginning of the new.  And who among us has not sung the familiar Auld Lang Syne as part of a New Year’s celebration?  Literally meaning “old long ago”, the song represents “the love and kindness of days gone by”, but also provides a sense of “belonging and fellowship to take into the future”.  And of course, who hasn’t enjoyed the tradition of that New Year’s kiss?  But is everyone aware of ancient meaning of this kiss?  One tradition says it represents a guard against living a year of loneliness and another is that it helps ward off evil spirits.  Other, perhaps lesser known, traditions include the eating of black eyed peas in the Southern United States to symbolize economic prosperity; the wearing of colorful undies in some Latin American countries with varying colors thought to influence the kind of year you are hoping for; and the eating of twelve grapes to signify 12 months of good fortune.

Now, any discussion of the New Year must include a few words about the tradition of the setting of those New Year’s Resolutions.  The practice of making resolutions actually began way back with the Babylonians who were of the belief that making promises to the gods would help insure getting the new year off on the right foot with continuing good luck and prosperity throughout the year.  And throughout history more and more people have developed the tradition of making promises, to oneself or to others, that New Year’s Day is the perfect point at which to begin acts of self-improvement. It has been stated that some 40% of our current population now participate in the setting of goals (resolutions) for the coming year.

Some of the more “popular” resolutions center around things such as losing weight; eating better and more healthy; seeking to improve education, job performance and career; volunteering more; and many others.  And most of us have probably experienced the act of setting our resolutions, then either forgetting to measure against how well we keep them or, perhaps even more common, forgetting about them from about January 2nd until the following December 31st.  And studies have indicated that 88% of those who establish resolutions fail.  Also, more success seems to happen when more specific and measurable goals are established (lose a pound per week vs. lose weight) and where resolutions are made public and one can gain the support of friends and peer groups.

Looking back at some of my Pop’s Perspective articles from last year, I even find that in mid-year I perhaps suggested some resolutions, such as “So let me suggest that we all stop from time to time, look around us, be thankful for what we have, slow down once in a while and ‘smell your roses’ ”.    And from another article, “ And maybe, just maybe, we could all consider the importance of freeing our minds from the day-to-day clutter that we find, pause in life and become a bit more observant of what we are doing with our lives. Maybe make some time to be quiet, rest, contemplate how we are doing, our goals and our treatment of others. Maybe, indeed, we need to make time to “stop and stare”!

Again, I want to take this opportunity to wish each of you a very Happy and Healthy New Year.  And oh, by the way, why not take the time at the start of 2014 to take advantage of Bill’s offer to schedule a free consultation, especially in the areas of Wills, Trusts and Estates and Elder Law.  These topics, if either acted upon or ignored, may have a dramatic effect on our lives – both in 2014 and many years to come.

Thanks for reading and look for future Pop’s Perspective articles in the coming months.