What New Year?

[Note: I wrote this for 1st January 2007 blog. I updated it and submit it to Brunei Times and it was published on 1st January 2008 under the title of 'Which New Year Did You Mean?']

By Rozan Yunos

Today is the first day of 2008 AD or to be nonreligious - 2007 CE (Common Era) as AD stands for the Latin word ‘Anno Domini’ - the year of our lord or as the Oxford Dictionary pointed out AD refers to 'of the Christian Era'.

So if you were not a Christian, why were you singing the old Scottish song Auld Lang Syne (written by poet Robert Burns and published in 1796) to celebrate the 'new year' last night?

In the middle ages, even the church was against celebrating new years calling it paganism. It was not until only about 400 years ago that the beginning of the AD new years were celebrated. Even then and now, not everyone celebrated the same New Year. Celebrating the New Year depended on which religion or culture one belongs to.

The Muslims will not be celebrating the New Year until the 8th January to mark the 1st day of the Muharram and the new year of 1429. The Jews will celebrate their Rosh Hashanah to mark the new year of 5769 in September. The Chinese for the Chinese New Year 4706, the Korean for their Seollal and the Vietnamese for the Tet will not be celebrating until the 4th February.

The Sri Lankans will celebrate their Aluth Avurudhu and Puththandu in April and a host of other cultures will celebrate their new years at different times of the year - Iran, 20th March for Norouz; Tamil, 13th April for Vishu; Telugu, March for Ugadi; Thai (for Songkaran) and Cambodia (for Songkan) on 13th April; Bengali, 14th April for Pohela Baisakh; and Gujarats in October a day after the Diwali festival unlike all other Hindus who will celebrate the New Year on the Diwali itself.

If you study the history of the calendar, even celebrating the New Year on the 1st of January is a bit off. The Gregorian calendar we are using today was based on the old Roman calendar and originally it only had 10 months - December stands for the decimal 10 and the original months derived from Latin, hence September the 7th month; October the 8th month and November the 9th month. So New Year was on 1st March!

However as the years went out of sync with the season, the months of January and February were added. Even this did not keep up and additional leap months were added from time to time to keep the calendar in sync with the four seasons.

In the older days, celebrating the New Year was not always done on 1st January. Some do it on 25th December (Christmas); some 25th March (Feast of Annunciation); some on the first Friday of April (Easter); some maintained it on 1st March as well as a number of other dates. Similar to today's multicultural and multi religion, the first of January does not always mark the beginning of the New Year.

The 'New Year' brings out the animal called 'New Year Resolutions'. I will be off to the gym sometime later today or maybe tomorrow where I will see one of the manifestations of these 'resolutions'.

I have been going for the last 3 years - not that it has done much to reduce my waistline but at least it kept my blood circulation running - where as usual this January, I will be seeing many new members - all with new year determination of keeping fit - and with the crowd, I will for sure definitely lose my favourite parking spot.

By February, some will continue to come but by March, I will get my parking spot back. The thrill of making New Year’s resolutions of keeping fit will be gone for most of the new gym members.

New Year’s resolutions sound so good when you make them. But keeping them is the hardest. Why? It's always the reality of reaching those goals. It's harder than you imagine. One reason is that we make them when we are down at the end of the year that we needed something to look forward to, to make up for what we thought was an abysmal year. But why is it so hard to maintain the resolutions?

A lot of the failures are because of the target settings that we chose. We give up because some of the New Year’s resolution did not produce an overnight change - lack of results. This is because there was a lack of planning. Making permanent changes in life requires planning.

We set unrealistic goals when they should be specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and trackable. Reality sucks, big time. It is fun to imagine but so much harder to do. We do things in a big way - biting off more than you can chew.

That's the New Year. I will not say Happy New Year just yet. Maybe I will say it on 8th January or 4th February or any other days - depending on very much on who you are.


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