This is the last post of the year for PeRceptions. Historically, we’ve used it as an opportunity to take a look back at the year at Cookerly – what we’ve achieved professionally and on behalf of our clients; what stands out as the most memorable events of the year.
But that strikes me as a bit too much navel-gazing for a business that is in the business of using messaging to reach audiences on their terms. So, because I often advise clients to avoid the trap of navel-gazing (e.g., talking in their own “lingo” instead of trying to think as someone who doesn’t know them, their product or service as well as they do), I’m taking on a different topic.
Being somewhat of a history buff (and lover of Wikipedia), I started wondering how and when the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions got its start. A bit of common sense is all that is needed to understand the “why” – it’s logical to see that any opportunity to start anew would be a good time to take inventory on what is working – and what isn’t – in our lives.
But here are four things you may not know about the New Year celebration and its traditions:
- Like many things in Western culture, New Year’s Resolutions got their start with the Romans. Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances, had two faces, and could look back on past events and forward to the future. A legend began that on December 31 at midnight, Janus would see the past year and the next year at the same time. Romans began making promises to Janus in the hopes that he would see their sincerity and help them attain their goals. Many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.
- The modern form of our Americanized New Year’s Resolutions is credited to Benjamin Franklin. In his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” of 1738, Franklin wrote, “Each year one vicious habit rooted out, in time might make the worst man good throughout,” and the almanac published a first set of true New Year’s resolutions.
- There are many global “good luck” traditions associated with the New Year. Being a true Southerner, to me, New Year’s Day means a dish based on West African recipes, Hoppin’ John (for luck), accompanied by collard greens (for money). Food traditions abound across the globe, with lasagna the meal of choice for luck in Sicily; suckling pig in Austria; and rice pudding (with one lucky almond) in Norway. These traditions seem to stick for decades or even centuries.
- Resolutions don’t fare as well. In 1997, a University of Washington study found 47 percent of the 100 million adult Americans who make resolutions give up on their goals after two months. This figure has grown to 80 percent in the past decade, according to recent research completed at the University of Minnesota.
As for me, I do make resolutions, but avoid the “I will go to the gym 7 days a week” ones, as I know I’m only setting myself up for failure. Professionally, I think I speak for everyone here when I saw we resolve to continue to work hard on behalf of our clients, to be true partners in their businesses, and to appreciate the fact that they trust in us to be catalysts in changing behavior, driving sales, enhancing and protecting their reputations. What about you?