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Dekker: New year marks much more than merely the passage of time

The Times Square New Year's Eve Ball rises top its 135-foot spire 2011 New York.  |  File pho

The Times Square New Year's Eve Ball rises to the top of its 135-foot spire in 2011 in New York. | File photo

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Updated: February 6, 2014 6:15AM



It has been nearly a week since we rang in the new year with good cheer and optimism, resolutions still fresh in our minds. Once again, we have a new year wide open before us, its possibilities endless.

That’s why New Year’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. It’s more of a personal holiday. A time of inner reflection and hope for the future.

The goals are different for each of us. We may celebrate together in a toast, but our resolutions are our own.

New Year’s Day is the most important holiday in Japan and is considered a symbol of renewal. In December, the Japanese hold “forget the year” parties called bonenkai to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and to prepare for a new beginning.

On Dec. 31 at midnight, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in an effort to expel the 108 types of human weakness. Now that’s a list that I want to read!

In the Netherlands, the Dutch burn great bonfires of Christmas trees. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new.

It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make new year’s resolutions. Early Christians believed that the first day of the year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve in the new one.

In Spain, there’s a ritual on New Year’s Eve of eating 12 grapes at midnight, a tradition meant to secure 12 happy months in the coming year.

Of course, in the United States one of our most famous traditions began in 1907 with the dropping of the ball in New York City’s Times Square. Did you know that the ball today is made of Waterford crystal, weighs 1,070 pounds and is six feet in diameter? The original ball was made of iron and wood.

Whether it’s crystal, fire or grapes, the sentiment is the same all over the world — let go of the old and get on with the new.

While goals such as losing weight, quitting smoking and other personal improvements are worthwhile, I prefer to focus on the opportunities that the new year holds. I have found that Tinley Park is loaded with opportunities for personal growth.

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege to meet and interview many interesting people in our town. People who do some incredible things. People who provide food for the hungry, toys for children and clothes for the needy. People who help animals, who crochet blankets for babies and pads for homeless people to sleep on.

I’ve met people who work with the disabled, offering them dignity and a sense of purpose. People who assist our veterans in every way possible. People who preserve our history and teach us about our future.

People who keep us safe in our town and are there to help us when we need them. People who give their time to make our village a great place to live ,with fun and interesting things to do.

These people are our neighbors, and these kind and selfless acts of things are happening around us every day. There is no shortage of ways to improve not only ourselves but the lives of the people around us.

Almost every organization in town needs volunteers and would be grateful for your help.

Resolutions aren’t just about what we stop doing but about what we start doing. I must say that I’m excited to think of where 2014 will take me.



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