1924: The New Year’s Resolution

I hope you had a happy holiday. I’ve survived Christmas week, with a whirlwind trip to Buffalo, Baltimore, Mineral and then Gainesville, Virginia, to visit family… though it was good to see everyone I’m happy to be back home after all that roadtripping.

I thought I would bring in the New Year with a quote from advice maven Lillian Eichler. She wrote The Customs of Mankind in 1924. It was in this book that I found a little something about the tradition many of us repeat each year, that of the New Year’s resolution.


The New Year’s resolution undoubtedly had its origin in the notion that the coming year represented an entirely new period of life to the individual, with which he might do as he pleased. What was already passed he put out of his mind, for it was something over which he had no control. But on the coming year he concentrated in earnestness. It spread out like a golden vista before him. It was a period of promise. And he probably found himself making solemn avowals concerning what he would do with his next year of life.

In ancient England it was the custom to clean out the chimneys on New Year’s Day so that luck could descend and, of course, remain all year. With us it is customary to speak of “cleaning the slate” (of life) and making good resolutions so that the “slate” will remain clean throughout the year.

The making of New Year’s resolutions became quickly a common practice. We can understand why a custom such as this would appeal to the popular fancy and remain throughout the generations. To a mass mind, no period of the year could be more timely for a change in one’s mode of living than that period which represents the beginning of the year. A new year–a new life.


Happy 2007!