It’s that time of year when all insist on putting themselves through the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions, resolutions honored mostly in the breach. Instead, I intend to spend my intellectual energy reflecting on the major issues of our day.
Why does Jan. 1 get to be the start of the new year? Why not March 25 or March 1? This is no flippant question. These dates were the mark of the new year in centuries past. Even Easter was unofficially the mark for the new year’s coming for tribes recently converted to Christianity.
I know January is the month closest to the winter solstice, that mini-second in time each Dec. 22 or thereabouts when the sun is farthest away. If the day is shortest then in terms of sunlight, marking its nadir makes sense. But why not renumber the days so that Dec. 22 becomes Jan. 1? That would be more logical and, given that I am of German heritage, I like order.
Our Anglo-Saxon political forebears assumed the year changed in November when their winter season began. This was an agricultural calendar whose seasons preceded ours by about six weeks. I guess they assumed the year changed once all the harvest was in. Makes sense to me.
One practical problem is inserting the falderal of New Year’s Eve into the middle of what traditionally is the Christmas season. Remember that song about the 12 days of Christmas? New Year’s is day eight, representing a secularized interruption of the sacred season. I know; the Christmas season is now nothing more than a retail saturnalia of consumer spending beginning sometime around Halloween and ending with a punctuated exclamation mark at midnight on Dec. 25. Note how the TV commercials change; do we see any snow in commercials after Christmas Day?
Wouldn’t New Year’s Eve be much more fun in July? The parties could be outside, the barbecue grill fully aflame and no worry about driving home on icy roads.
Of course Congress would succumb to the uncontrollable urge to mandate that New Year’s Day always fall on a Monday. Or it could just merge it with Independence Day and make it a four-day weekend to keep the federal employee unions happy.
Perhaps I am overthinking this. I can tell when I do that; my wife rolls her eyes and tells me to clean up the stack of books on the floor of my study. I clean it up and then it just grows again like Topsy. Something nefarious is at work here. Maybe it is Amazon, which feeds more than one of my addictions.
One final reflection: The fact that I can spend my time worrying to death such a trivial subject rather than fretting about how to house, clothe and feed my family is sobering albeit in a pleasant way. For everything that appears to be going wrong in this country, and I have my rather lengthy list, so much more still is right.
Curmudgeon that I am, I can appreciate the blessings bestowed on America and me personally. So perhaps I do have a New Year’s resolution for 2023. I resolve to work harder at suppressing the curmudgeon and freeing the thankful inner me.
That should prove more beneficial to those around me than however much weight I lose or daily steps I take.
Blessings to the poor in spirit, especially in this year of our Lord 2023.
Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Send comments to [email protected]