As with many holiday traditions, most New Year’s resolutions have religious roots. Babylonians were thought to be some of the first to make such resolutions, making promises to the gods to return borrowed objects and pay debts at the start of each year. Drawing from this earlier Tradition, Romans also made promises to the two-faced god Janus, namesake of the month January.
During the Medieval Era, there was yet another New Years-resolution tradition, known as the Vow of the Peacock, that has fallen out of popularity in modern times. In Charles Dickens’ periodical All the Year Round, he wrote about the Vow of the Peacock, explaining that peacocks (and occasionally pheasants) represented “by the splendour and variety of their colours, the majesty of kings during the middle ages”—and were thought to be “the peculiar diet of valiant knights and heart-stricken lovers.” Therefore, in the new year, a great feast was held with a roasted peacock as its centerpiece. Each knight would make a vow of chivalry to the bird, after which it would be carved and divided among all those present.
The code of chivalry—which knights in question pledged to uphold—can be found below. (Click the image to enlarge.)
You’re sipping champagne at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2018, enjoying your celebration and not giving much thought to tomorrow. Suddenly, you notice that there is a large peacock standing beside you. You’re not quite sure where it came from, or if the bird is even real. The peacock cranes its slender neck to look up at you, then politely asks if you intend to uphold the code of chivalry and make the Vow of the Peacock in the new year. What do you do?
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