【媒库文选】为什么我们要定下新年决心

01-10 13:43   参考消息网  

Why We Make New Year's Resolutions

为什么我们要定下新年决心

Stephanie Pappas 斯蒂芬妮·帕帕斯

Got plans to lose weight, eat healthier or save more money? If these or any other New Year's resolutions are on your list, you're in good company because you are taking part in a goal-driven tradition that has emerged in different forms throughout history.

People hoping to slim down or move up the corporate latter may not realize it, but they are engaging in a tradition that has ancient origins. Bronze Age people also practiced the fine art of New Year's resolutions, though their oaths were external, rather than internally focused. More than 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians celebrated the New Year not in January, but in March, when the spring harvest came in. The festival, called Akitu, lasted 12 days.

An important facet of Akitu was the crowning of a new king, or reaffirmation of loyalty to the old king, should he still sit on the throne. Special rituals also affirmed humanity's covenant with the gods; as far as Babylonians were concerned, their continued worship was what kept creation humming.

Centuries later, the ancient Romans had similar traditions to ring in their new year, which also originally began in March. In the early days of Rome, the city magistrates' terms were defined by this New Year's date. On March 1, the old magistrates would affirm before the Roman Senate that they had performed their duties in accordance with the laws. Then,the New Year's magistrates would be sworn into office.

After Rome became an empire in 27 B.C.,New Year's Day became a time for city leaders and soldiers to swear an oath of loyalty to the Emperor. This was not always mere political theater.

Like Babylon, Rome originally celebrated the New Year in March, but at some point around 300 B.C., the ceremony shifted to Jan. 1. Rome was a military society, and as the empire expanded, the generals had to travel longer distances. Prime battle season was in the spring,which probably made a March 1 swear-in date too late.

As Romans gradually became less warlike, the switch from celebrating the New Year during a month (March) associated with Mars, the god of war to one (January), associated with Janus, a god of home and hearth, seemed appropriate. The first half of New Year's Day in Rome would have been taken up by public ceremonies, oath-taking and temple sacrifices, while the second half of the day was for social activities. Citizens would bring each other gifts of honey, pears and other sweets as presents for a “sweet new year”.

There is no direct line from ancient Roman tradition to modern New Year's resolutions, but the desire to start anew pops up repeatedly in western civilization. In 1740, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, invented a new type of church service. These services, called Covenant Renewal Services or watch night services, were held during the Christmas and New Year's season as an alternative to holiday partying. Today, these services are often held on New Year's Eve,according to the United Methodist Church. Worshippers sing, pray, reflect on the year and renew their covenant with God.

New Year's resolutions have become a secular tradition, and most Americans who make them now focus on self-improvement. The U.S. government even maintains a website of those looking for tips on achieving some of the most popular resolutions: losing weight, volunteering more, stopping smoking, eating better, getting out of debt and saving money.

制定了减肥、健康饮食或存钱的计划吗?如果你列出了诸如此类的新年决心,那么你有许多同伴,因为你加入了一种由目标驱动的传统。在历史的长河中,这种传统有过多种形式。

希望减肥或升职的人也许并未意识到,他们加入了一种具有古老起源的传统。青铜时代的人也习惯于定下新年决心,只是他们的誓言事关外部事物而非聚焦自身。四千多年前,古巴比伦人在3月而不是1月庆祝新年,3月是春收时节。名为“Akitu”的新年节持续12天。

新年节的一个重要内容就是新国王加冕,如果老国王继续在位则重新宣誓效忠于他。特殊的仪式也确认了人与神之间的契约;就巴比伦人而言,正是他们的不断敬拜维持了生生不息。

几个世纪以后,古罗马人也以类似的传统迎接新年,他们的新年最初也是从3月开始。在早期的罗马,地方行政官的任期以新年第一天为界。3月1日,现任地方行政官们要在元老院声明,他们遵照法律履行了职责。接着,新一年的地方行政官们宣誓就职。

在公元前27年罗马进入帝国时代后,新年第一天就成为城市领导者和军人宣誓效忠皇帝的日子。这并不始终只是政治舞台而已。

与巴比伦一样,罗马最初是在3月庆祝新年,但在公元前300年前后,庆祝活动改在1月1日举行。罗马是一个军事社会,随着帝国的扩张,将领要到更远的地方征战。战争主要在春季进行,这也许让3月1日宣誓效忠为时过晚。

随着罗马人的好战性逐渐减弱,庆祝新年的时间由与战神马耳斯有关的月份(3月)改为与守护门户和壁炉的两面神杰纳斯有关的月份(1月)似乎合情合理。在古罗马,新年第一天的前半段用于公共庆典、宣誓和寺庙祭祀,后半段用于社交活动。平民之间互赠蜂蜜、梨和其他甜食,祝福彼此有一个“甜蜜的新年”。

古罗马的传统与现代的新年决心并无直接传承,但拥有崭新开始的愿望在西方文明中一再出现。1740年,卫理公会的创始人约翰·卫斯理创造了一种新的礼拜形式。它们被称为重新立约或除夕礼拜,作为节日派对的替代活动在圣诞节和新年期间举行。今天,根据联合卫理公会的规定,这些礼拜经常在新年前夜举行。礼拜者歌唱、祈祷、反省过去的一年,并重新订立与上帝的誓约。

新年决心已成为世俗传统,现在,大多数定下新年决心的美国人都以自我提升为主。美国政府甚至设立了一个专门网站,指导那些寻求帮助的人实现一些最常见的新年决心:减肥、参加更多的志愿服务、戒烟、健康饮食、还清债务和存钱。(刘白云译自美国趣味科学网站2017年12月31日文章)