Every New Year’s Eve, my family gets together for hors d’oeuvres. Over the past 364 days, we put slips of paper into a jar detailing important events as they transpire. Then, on New Year’s we take turns pulling them out and reminiscing over the past few months. Here is a sample of those events:

  • Flooding in GR: driving down the road with water on both sides! That famous picture of a building downtown with the fish swimming right outside the window
  • Watching the fireworks from my sister’s office building (the first time in about 10 years that I have actually enjoyed watching fireworks: air conditioning, no bugs, and no annoying people standing up right in front of us)
  • The wedding
  • Record high temperatures in June and July
  • Boston Marathon bombings
  • Pope Francis (that guy is pretty cool)
  • Russian meteor explodes over Chelyabinsk (and we learned how useful it was that Russian cars all have video cameras on the dashboard)
  • Me telling my 10th graders that my sister’s name is Linnea (Lih-nay-uh). Their response: “Linnea? That’s a black girl name! She’s one of us!”

* * * *

 I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve. After the hype of Christmas, it’s kind of anti-climactic. You’re basically waiting around the whole day until the last 10 seconds where you actually pay attention. And I definitely don’t care about New Year’s resolutions. They feel self-congratulatory, almost like the act of stating your resolve to make changes in your life warrants some kind of pat on the back.

I did, however, look up the history of New Year’s resolutions. In ancient Babylon, people would make vows to their gods that they would pay their debts.  In the Middle Ages, there was something called the “peacock vow,” where knights would re-pledge their commitment to being chivalrous every Christmas.

But I think my favorite piece of history comes from ancient Rome. Every year, the Romans made promises to the god, Janus (hence January), who was often depicted as two-faced: one facing front and one facing back.

I like this image when thinking about New Year’s. We are thinking forward to the future (hence, usually baseless promises that we will start going to the gym three times a week or only drinking wine on the weekends). We are also pondering the past, and I often find myself thinking, Geez, a lot of stuff happened this year! At the end of 2012, I remember thinking that it had been full of particularly crappy and violent events. I’m not sure what events and stories will fill up 2014, but I hope to pay attention. And go to the gym more.

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