New Years from Old Years

By Karen Prather

[December 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

NEW YEAR, SAME STORY. The symbolic end to each year inspires us to reflect on the passage of time, its difference and sameness. Like it or not, some things always stay the same, for years, decades, and—seemingly—centuries. If you find the difficulty of resolutions particularly taxing this time of year, take comfort in this passage from the Montrose Enterprise, December 30, 1899.

Even 100 years ago, abuzz with the promise of a new year, people found comfort in the writing of Ms. Polly Pry, one of the most notable reporters in Colorado history. Before she wrote her story about the “Colorado Cannibal” Alfred Packer, her writing style’s characteristic drama came from a lighter place and was published in the announcements section of the Enterprise.

The end of a year though a symbolic measure of time, inspires humans to contemplate their choices thus far, and attempt to correct wrongdoings. According to Scottish historians, one of the earliest records of New Year’s resolutions appeared in the diary of a Scottish woman, in which she even refers to her goals the same as we do in modern times, titling her entry “Resolutions.” Most of these were religiously influenced, including “I will not offend.”

Our resolutions today do not much differ from those of 1671 Scotland or 1899 Colorado. In the excerpt from the Enterprise article entitled “Stop It,” the author identifies the usual end-of-year concerns: drinking too much, gambling recklessly, gray hair, or financial instability. According to a 2018 study by the Publishing Company, Inc., the most popular New Year’s resolutions reported by adults included drinking less, quitting smoking, spending less money, and weight loss.

Regardless, if you made your resolution today or in 1671, don’t hesitate to turn to the century-old words of Polly Pry: “Oh, well, whate’er it be, If with your world it don’t agree, and brings you care or misery, Strike now the blow that sets you free!”