New Year’s resolutions? What’s the point?

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I’ve never really gone in for them, though it’s possible I might have tried once or twice. To me there’s something almost superficial about pegging the promise of a life change on the occasion of a recurring holiday. It seems trivializing or insubstantial, maybe flighty. I don’t trust myself to commit to keep a promise that I’m making because it’s the time of year to make a promise.

But that’s me, and I wonder if other people have success with their resolutions. I do like the idea of “new year, new start.”

I’ve been reading Jeanette Winterson’s “Christmas Days,” a book of stories and essays and recipes that isn’t only about Christmas, and it has this to say about New Year’s resolutions:

“Doing things differently is difficult. We like habit. I guess that’s why people resolve to kick their habits at New Year. Some do that, through willpower; most of us fail. Actions and behaviour—habits—are on the surface. Why we act or behave in certain ways is usually buried deep—and so it’s hard to change our behaviour unless we change something more fundamental about ourselves.”

That sounds about right to me.

If I were to choose a resolution, it probably would be something aimed at improving my outlook on life, my emotional wellbeing. Not something as straightforward as resolving to focus on the positive, but something that would add a healthy habit or break an unhealthy one—writing or reading poetry every day, attending a community meeting of some kind every week, that sort of thing. But as I said, I won’t trust myself to do that unless the resolve bubbles up in me organically at a different time of year.

Like most holidays, New Year’s has traditions for me—which, come to think of it, is kind of antithetical to “new year, new start,” but life is what it is. For me, the traditions include watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies (either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, or both), and making and eating lentil soup on New Year’s Day—Mom’s recipe, starting with ham hocks. I say “Bunny, Bunny” for good luck on the first day of every month when I remember, and the first day of a new year seems extra lucky. I try to spend some time reading, and I try to get the dogs out for a walk. I try to walk the dogs every day, though, so that’s not really about the new year.

Here’s what doesn’t happen on New Year’s Day:

  • Taking down the Christmas tree
  • Working
  • Making and breaking resolutions (see above)
  • Anything that feels like a major effort

Here are some New Year’s traditions from around the world. Personally, my favorite celebrations are kind of quiet: Fred and Ginger, game nights with a few friends, that sort of thing. I usually manage to stay up until midnight, but you won’t find me looking for a big blow-out party on New Year’s Eve. I might lose my head.

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