By Beth Lawrence
Sylva Police Chief Chris Hatton doesn’t make personal New Year’ resolutions, but he has a goal for the department in 2020.
“My work resolution is to lead the Sylva Police Department in such a way that people always come first and our hearts show through during our work in the community,” he said.
New Year’s resolutions are not a modern idea. They date back for millennia and have evolved with each culture that celebrated the coming year.
Today’s resolutions are different than the ones made thousands of years ago.
Ancient Babylonians were the first civilization to record holding festivities to usher in a new year. They are also believed to have made resolutions, said author Sarah Pruitt, writing for the History Channel.
Babylonians held a “12-day religious festival known as Akitu,” Pruitt said. During this time they crowned a new King or made a new pledge of loyalty to the current king.
They also pledged to their gods that they would pay off debts and return anything they borrowed the previous year. If they followed through, the gods would reward them.
Babylonian New Year took place in mid-March by today’s calendar, because the Babylonian calendar aligned with the growing season.
Roman Emperor Julius Caesar revamped the calendar in 46 BC bringing it closer to what is used today. Caesar set Jan. 1 as the beginning of the year. January was named in honor of the Roman god Janus who had two faces and was believed to grace doorways and arches.
“Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year,” Pruitt said.
For early Christians, the New Year was every bit as spiritual, but it took on a greater significance in the 18th century. Moravian churches held a New Year’s Eve vigil to reflect on the past year and contemplate the next.
The ceremony was co-opted in 1740 by John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church.
Wesley believed the New Year should be a time of restoration. He conceived a Covenant Renewal Service to be held on New Year’s Eve or day. The ceremonies became known as Watch Night services. They included scripture reading and hymns and served as a spiritual option for those not wishing to participate in raucous year end parties.
The practice is still popular in Evangelical and Protestant churches. The night is spent in prayer and making resolutions for the coming year.
In African American communities, Watch Night services took on special significance during the Civil War. In September 1862, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The declaration was to take effect Jan. 1, 1863. Slaves in slaveholding states assembled in private homes and churches on New Year’s Eve to usher in midnight and their new freedom. Many African American churches still hold Watch Night services.
Jackson County residents other than Hatton also have personal and professional goals for 2020.
Natasha Wilson of Sylva is looking forward to relaxing more.
“My New Year’s resolution is to focus more on myself and to find time for some self-care and becoming healthier,” she said.
She does not have a plan of action yet, but says she has time to work it out.
Courtney Fish of Sylva doesn’t like to make New Year’s resolutions, because she doesn’t always follow through with them.
David Miner of Whittier doesn’t make resolutions, but always keeps an item of self-improvement in mind to work on. In the past he has worked on his physical and mental health and being a better person along with improving his business, Swim Without Limits.
Chris Hilgar has a purely professional goal to work toward in the coming year. Hilgar works at Balsam Falls and judges beer as a hobby.
“I’ve been judging beer for the past six years or so,” Hilgar said. “I’m certified rank. I need to move up to the national rank just to get my name out there so that people know that I know what I’m doing.”
Hilgar has a plan of action for his goal. He will work with the Beer Judge Certification Program which judges beer competitions and sets style guidelines for beers.
Rebecca Mull and her daughters, Emily and Angelina Lackey, of Sylva, have set goals for physical, emotional and educational health in 2020.
Rebecca wants to lose weight, be kinder and give back to the community.
“To read more and get my grades up,” is 15-year-old Angelina’s New Year’s promise.
She and her twin sister, Emily, are students at Smoky Mountain High School.
“My New Year’s resolutions are to develop a better work ethic, because I procrastinate a lot,” Emily said. “I’ve been trying to do bullet journaling and planning to help with that.”
She also wants to start working out again.