Most Famous New Year Sayings and Quotes

Unlike other deaths,
years to not die from sickness
or murder,
their time just comes—
perhaps a little weary
from a twelvemonth of toil
but neither sad nor glad to go;
‘Tis been a pleasure to be of service,
the faithful companion old year says
with a bow as he parts
And seamlessly the new is born
with experience somehow already in hand
to begin the first January morn.
~Terri Guillemets, “Ad infinitum,” 2015

The relentless punctuality, the unwearied urgency, of old Time, who turns his hour-glass with such a sonorous ring on New-year’s Day… ~George William Curtis (1824–1892), “Editor’s Easy Chair,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1887

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. ~Oprah Winfrey (b.1954)

The Pope and the Parliament played havoc with the date of the proper annual emotion. Moreover, if a man should happen to think of it, every day is a new-year’s day. If we propose a prospect or a retrospect we can stand tiptoe on the top of every day, yes, and of every hour, in the year. Good-morning is but a daily greeting of Happy New-year….
But we are children of the new style, and the first of January is our New-year. That is our day of remembrance, our feast of hope, the first page of our fresh calendar of good resolutions, the day of underscoring and emphasis of the swift lapse of life.
~George William Curtis (1824–1892), “Editor’s Easy Chair,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1887

The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to. ~P.J. O’Rourke (b.1947)

For to-night is the last day of the olden year:
And ages and cycles long bygone,
They are circling around and hovering near;
They have woven his robe and twined his crown,
And are waiting about to carry him down….
So the Old Year sits with his friends together,
And they scoff in their hearts at the surly weather.
~J.J. Britton (1832–1913), “The Old Year and the New,” c.1855

He is dead, he is dead, and his requiem swells
As in turret and tower a thousand bells
Ring and swing with a clangorous din,
And the wild winds carry the New Year in.
~J.J. Britton (1832–1913), “The Old Year and the New,” c.1855

Whether we want them or not, the New Year will bring new challenges; whether we seize them or not, the New Year will bring new opportunities. ~Michael Josephson (b.1942), whatwillmatter.com

Old Year! upon the Stage of Time
You stand to bow your last adieu;
A moment, and the prompter’s chime
Will ring the curtain down on you.
Your mien is sad, your step is slow;
You falter as a Sage in pain;
Yet turn, Old Year, before you go,
And face your audience again.
~Robert W. Service, “The Passing of the Year,” 1912

So, hope-lit New Year, with thy joys uncertain,
Whose unsolved mystery none may foretell,
I calmly trust my God to lift thy curtain:
Safe in his love, for me ’twill all be well.
~Julia B. Cady (d.1869), “New-Year Thoughts,” in Sabbath at Home, January 1870

My pipe is out, my glass is dry;
My fire is almost ashes too;
But once again, before you go,
And I prepare to meet the New:
Old Year! a parting word that’s true,
For we’ve been comrades, you and I —
I thank God for each day of you;
There! bless you now! Old Year, good-bye!
~Robert W. Service, “The Passing of the Year,” 1912

Now the year is dying fast…
All his children stand around…
Twelve there are: I dimly mark
All their figures in the dark,
Hovering near the patriarch…
Pressing the year’s death-cold brow,
I rose up with many a vow.
~Caroline May (1820–c.1891), a.k.a. Caromaia, “The Dying Year’s Counsels,” in The Christian Treasury, 1880

Each New Year’s Day is like starting a treasure hunt again from scratch, with a slightly altered map. ~Terri Guillemets, “XMoves,” 2004

The last fire of many that have blazed on my hearth these twelve months gone is fast sinking into ashes. I do not care to revive its expiring flame, because I find its slow fading into darkness harmonious with the hour and the thought which comes with it as the shadow follows the cloud. While it is true that our division of time into years is purely conventional, and finds no recognition or record on the great dial face of the heavens, no man can be quite oblivious of it. New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. The vast and shadowy stream of time sweeps on without break, but the traveler who has been journeying with it cannot be entirely unmindful that he is perceptibly nearer the end of his wanderings. ~Hamilton Wright Mabie (1846–1916), “New Year’s Eve,” c.1885

The wave is breaking on the shore,—
The echo fading from the chime,
Again the shadow moveth o’er
The dial-plate of time!
~John Greenleaf Whittier, “The New Year: Addressed to the Patrons of the Pennsylvania Freeman,” 1839

But then I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you? Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second. ~Helen Fielding (b.1958), “Sunday 1 January,” Bridget Jones’s Diary, 1996

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~Bill Vaughan (1915–1977), in The Kansas City Star

I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ~Anaïs Nin (1903–1977), journal, January 1927

A new year is simply the turn of a calendar page — and a beautiful chance for us to turn over a new leaf. ~Terri Guillemets, “January up,” 1996

O great Today! We hail thee as a child
Of all Time’s ages, and the New Year’s dawn,
Crowned with the garnered glory of the centuries,
Proclaims the coming of a grander morn.
~Eliza A. Wetherby Otis (1833–1904), “The New Year (December 31, 1901—January 1, 1902),” in California “Where Sets the Sun”, 1905

A New-Year’s day—’tis but a term of art,
An arbitrary line upon the chart
Of Time’s unbounded sea—fond fancy’s creature,
To reason alien, and unknown to nature.
Nay—’tis a joyful day, a day of hope!…
And we, whom many New-Year’s days have told
The sober truth, that we are growing old—
For this one night—aye—and for many more,
Will be as jocund as we were of yore,
Kind hearts can make December blithe as May,
And in each morrow find a New-Year’s day.
~Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849), “New-Year’s Day,” Poems, 1833

About New Year’s I grit my teeth, I brace my feet an’ swear
Thet I’ll rastle with ol’ Satan an’ down him everywhere…
An’ so, on January first, ‘neath Virtue’s soft caress,
I feel all soaked in sanctity, an’ steeped in righteousness,
A sort er walkin’ meetin’-house, all sin-born fears are fled—
For, don’t the righteous own the earth, an’ ain’t the devil dead?
But the day after New Year’s Day, the devil moves his head,
An’ I am all broke up to find the old scamp isn’t dead;
An’ later in the afternoon, he jest begins to blink,
An’ has the cheek to lift his head, ‘an cock his eye an’ wink…
~Sam Walter Foss (1858–1911), “New Year Righteousness,” Back Country Poems, 1892

Heap on more wood!—the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deemed the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer…
~Walter Scott (1771–1832), Marmion; a Tale of Flodden Field, 1808

A spirit haunts the year’s last hours
Dwelling amid these yellowing bowers…
The air is damp, and hush’d, and close,
As a sick man’s room when he taketh repose
An hour before death;
My very heart faints and my whole soul grieves
At the moist rich smell of the rotting leaves,
And the breath
Of the fading edges of box beneath,
And the year’s last rose…
~Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), “Song,” Poems, 1830

Year’s end comes on the wings of a chattering jay and a cawing crow, and a wind that rustles the sere oak leaves in the star-glimmered night. The jay chatters of short Winter days, and the crow caws of the long Winter nights. And the wind’s song is the song of time, of the years, the endless round of years. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “The Song of Time,” 1945 December 31st

Time, the years, the seasons, the dreaming and the hopes which throb with life even under the ice and snow. There is an order to all things, a pressure of progression, and the winds themselves will die into nothingness and the tides wither away before the hopes shall have ended, the aspirations frozen forever. Year builds upon year, even as the seasons follow. And year’s end is no end at all, but only a pause, a time for the deep breath that marks the next step forward. There is no halt, no turning back. Tomorrow rises in the east, and all tomorrows. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “The Song of Time,” 1945 December 31st

Ring out, O bells, ring silver-sweet o’er hill and moor and fell!
In mellow echoes let your chimes their hopeful story tell.
Ring out, ring out, all jubilant, this joyous glad refrain:
“A bright new year, a glad new year, hath come to us again!”
Ah, who can say how much of joy within it there may be
Stored up for us, who listen now to your sweet melody?
Good-bye, Old Year, tried, trusty friend, thy tale at last is told.
O New Year, write thou thine for us in lines of brightest gold.
~A.H. Baldwin, “On the Threshold,” in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, 1885 December 19th

I fear thee not, O untried morrow! ~Julia B. Cady (d.1869), “New-Year Thoughts,” in Sabbath at Home, January 1870

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce, “January: On Opening Things — Snow-Blind,” Meditations for Women, edited by Jean Beaven Abernethy, 1947

Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day. ~Michael Josephson (b.1942), whatwillmatter.com

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions. ~Arnold Glasow (1905–1998), quoted by newspaper columnist Earl Wilson, January 1972

Hope came to me last New Year, and told her pretty lie,
How she’d make the earth grow greener, how she’d scour up the sky,
How she’d make the stars shine brighter, ere the coming year was done,
Make the grave moon more resplendent, polish up the ancient sun….
~Sam Walter Foss (1858–1911), “New Year’s at Hard Fact Meadows,” Whiffs from Wild Meadows, 1895

Lord, as the New Year dawns today,
Help me to put my faults away.
Let me be big in little things;
Grant me the joy which friendship brings;
Keep me from selfishness and spite,
Let me be wise to what is right.
A Happy New Year! grant that I
May cause no tear to any eye.
When this new year in time shall end,
Let it be said: “I’ve played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here
And made of it a happy year.”
~Edgar Guest (1881–1959), “Prayer for the New Year”

The bells ring out; the hoary steeple rocks—
Hark! the long story of a score of clocks;
For, once a year, the village clocks agree,
E’en clocks unite to sound the hour of glee—
And every cottage has a light awake,
Unusual stars long flicker o’er the lake.
~Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849), “New-Year’s Day,” Poems, 1833

When then is lost, as time is by,
we look upon the yearly wine
to see our substance in the lees.
Did tribe and purse most pleasing leave?
To look for clear and faithful sense,
that gives a bodied stance bouquet,
then see the vat at mirror’s face
and find in it, the yearly pace.
~E. Marshall, “Vintner Epilogue (Happy Old Year),” 2008

They come, they go, they change, they do not die.
So the Old Year—that fond and formal name,
Is with us yet, another and the same.
And are the thoughts, that ever more are fleeing,
The moments that make up our being’s being…
Are these less vital than the wave or wind.
Or snow that melts and leaves no trace behind?
Oh! let them perish all, or pass away,
And let our spirits feel a New Year’s day.
~Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849), “New-Year’s Day,” Poems, 1833

Christmas-day is the pleasantest day in the whole year. On that day we think tenderly of distant friends; we strive to forgive injuries—to close accounts with ourselves and the world—to begin the new year with a white leaf, and a trust that the chapter of life about to be written will contain more notable entries, a fairer sprinkling of good actions, fewer erasures made in blushes, and fewer ugly blots than some of the earlier ones. ~Alexander Smith (1829–1867), “Winter,” 1863

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: to rise above the little things. ~Author unknown

Last night, between eleven and twelve o’clock… the Old Year was leaving her final foot-prints on the borders of Time’s empire…. she thus awaited the midnight knell that was to summon her to the innumerable sisterhood of departed years….
The New Year…. greeted the disconsolate Old Year with great affection, and sat down beside her… waiting for the signal to begin her rambles through the world. The two were own sisters, being both grand-daughters of Time; and though one looked so much older than the other, it was rather owing to hardships and trouble than to age, since there was but a twelve-month’s difference between them.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864), “The Sister Years,” Carrier’s Address to Patrons of the Salem Gazette, 1839 January 1st

Even while we sing he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
~William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), “A Song for New Year’s Eve,” 1857

Farewell, old year; we walk no more together;
I catch the sweetness of thy latest sigh…
Good-bye, kind year, we walk no more together
But here in quiet happiness we part;
And from thy wreath of faded fern and heather
I take some sprays, and wear them on my heart.
~Sarah Doudney (1841–1926), “Farewell to the Old Year,” in The Sunday Magazine, 1881

The old year is gone, the new year begun, and those of us who set store by the calendar draw a line to sum up a total, since it is man’s habit to count the minutes and the days and try to map time. Nature, of course, has her own map of time, and although man’s calculations may approximate it, they miss the mark repeatedly. If we insist on starting the year in mid-Winter, the solstice would be the logical moment, and the solstice occurred nine days ago. The ancients, being practical people, started their year with the vernal equinox, the beginning of Spring.
But, being insistently illogical, we follow long habit and ingrained tradition and give this day unwonted significance. We draw a mythical total line, hoping somehow to stop time long enough to sum up. But even before we have totted the first column, time has gone beyond us. Time doesn’t wait for totals. Only the tax collector can command time, and even he can’t check the sun in its course. The sun already leans toward Spring and another Summer. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “Another Year,” January 1961

To our savage as well as our animal ancestors, spring was a time of awakening from the winter’s torpor, a time of throbbing pulse, of eager running hither and thither, of combat and mating and rioting. It was the real New Year, and should be ours instead of that pale, frost-bitten shadow of a shade which the almanacs have deluded us into anæmically celebrating in midwinter. ~Woods Hutchinson, A.M., M.D. (1862–1930), Civilization and Health, “Chapter XVI: Spring Fever and Spring Cleaning,” 1914

A new year begins, as we say. And the latent bud on the branch doesn’t stir one whit, the blossom in the bulb sleeps undisturbed in the frozen ground. The woodchuck’s hibernating pulse doesn’t quicken one beat, and the deer in the thicket is just as hungry as he was yesterday. Man is the only animal to whom this new year is important. All the others live by day and the season. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “Another Year,” January 1961

Since, then, we cannot stop the flight of Time, let him pass. But he must not calumniate as he passes. He must not be allowed to stigmatize vigor and health and freshness of feeling and the young heart and the agile foot as old merely because of a certain number of years. This is the season of good resolutions. The new year begins in a snow-storm of white vows. So be it. But let our whitest vow be, after that for a whiter life, that age shall no longer be measured by this arbitrary standard of years, and that those deceitful and practical octogenarians of thirty shall not escape as young merely because they have not yet shown the strength to carry threescore and ten with jocund elasticity.
Then Happy New-year shall not mean Good-night, but Good-morrow. ~George William Curtis (1824–1892), “Editor’s Easy Chair,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1887

There are those who try to bottle the old year for safekeeping but at midnight the cork always pops. ~Terri Guillemets, “Memories old & new,” 2005

Soon we will have completed our annual list of good intentions. Across the country there are millions of cigarettes waiting to be stomped out, tons of fat waiting to be lost, miles to be run, lives to be organized, selves to be improved.
Once again, we will pass resolutions as if we were our own Congress, legislating changes in our lives. On a million scraps of paper, we will publish an updated catalog of promises to be filed on the shelf of the self….
But I have a feeling that our resolutions have more to do with controlling our lives than enriching them….
We spend Jan. 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a punch list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. We decide that it’s time to get a painful grip on ourselves….
But life improvement is not just a matter of discipline, self-control. It’s a matter of expansion, the deliberate pursuit of happiness….
We ought to walk through the rooms of our lives a second time, not looking for the flaws, but for potential.
~Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe, December 1982

I found that a new oath holds pretty well; but… when it is become old and frayed out and damaged by a dozen annual retryings of its remains, it ceases to be serviceable; any little strain will snap it. ~Mark Twain (1835–1910), speech, Tile Club Dinner for Laurence Hutton, New York, 1885 March 31st, quoted in Mark Twain Speaking, Paul Fatout, ed., University of Iowa Press, 1976

New Year’s Day;
Nothing good or bad,—
Just human beings.
~Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902), haiku translated from Japanese by Reginald Horace Blyth

Like age, a new year is just a number. ~Terri Guillemets, “MMIV,” 2003

A Happy New Year! There is a glow of cheer and optimism in the very words “New Year.” The old year, with its anxieties and worries, is over. It too brought happy days and sunshine, and in memory we must cherish the bright places. ~May Louise Crane, “Poet-O-Grams,” American Poetry Magazine, January 1934

And now from yonder hill the sun’s bright beams
Shine through the mist, and flood the world with light;
The path winds on, leaving our broken dreams
Of tangled briar and brake far out of sight.
The dawn of hope has come our heart to cheer;
The path before us shines in the sun’s ray.
We follow on, into the coming year,
And in hope’s sunshine greet each op’ning day.
~Lilian Pearce, in My Kalendar of Country Delights by Helen Milman, 1903

December Thirtieth.—Ah! welladay, the sand is nearly run out. Will the year be marked for good or for ill in the Book of Time? Have I done my best? Wist ye that nought matters if we have done right and kept straight ahead? And the year that is coming, what does it hold for me? It matters not, all will be well, and one step is enough at a time. There will be strength enough for the one day whatever happens. Life is a difficult thing to understand; but then there is no need to understand here, if we only trust. ~Helen Rose Anne Milman Crofton (1857–1937), My Kalendar of Country Delights, 1903

January First.—Another page turned. Another milestone reached on the King’s Highway. Another year beginning with its hidden store of joy and sorrow…. Let Hope reign on New Year’s Day. ~Helen Rose Anne Milman Crofton (1857–1937), My Kalendar of Country Delights, 1903

The old year cracks under the burdensome weight of twelve heavy months, and the next year emerges fresh and anew from its shell. ~Terri Guillemets, “A cracked bell still tolls,” 2010

Comes now a smiling New-Born Year
To fill to-day with goodly cheer—
An infant hale and lusty.
Upon our door-sill he is left
By Daddy Time, of clothes bereft
Despite the season gusty.
If he be Churl or doughty Knight,
A Son of Darkness or of Light
No man can tell, God bless him!
But be he base or glorious
Time puts it wholly up to us
To dress him!
~John Kendrick Bangs (1862-1922), “The New-Born Year” (January First), The Cheery Way: A Bit of Verse For Every Day, 1920

Then out through the gates of the midnight—
The door of the past was ajar—
His robe like a shroud wrapped around him,
The Old Year vanished afar.
And as morn with her soft rosy fingers
Flung open the gates of the East,
The New Year looked out from its chambers
With a smile and a blessing of peace.
~Eliza A. Wetherby Otis (1833–1904), “The Old and the New,” December 1873, in Daily Ohio State Journal (Columbus), 1874 January 1st

The fire has burned low. The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months! Yet I do not see anything new about it. It is already fringed at the edges with inherited aches and unsolved problems…. O 1911! do your duty! ~Edward Payson Powell (1832–1915), “The New Year In: An Idyll,” 1910 December 31st (Sorrento, Florida), in The Independent, 1911 January 5th

I brought good desires,
Though as yet but seeds;
Let the New-Year make them
Blossom into Deeds.
I brought joy to brighten
Many happy days;
Let the New-Year’s Angel
Turn it into praise.
If I gave you sickness,
If I brought you care,
Let him make one Patience,
And the other Prayer.
Where I brought you sorrow,
Through his care, at length,
It may rise triumphant
Into future strength.
If I brought you plenty,
All wealth’s bounteous charms,
Shall not the New Angel
Turn them into alms.
~Adelaide A. Procter (1825–1864), “The Old Year’s Blessing,” A Chaplet of Verses, 1862

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go. ~Author unknown

The Old Year is slowly dying,
Without a tear or groan;
He is old and cold and aweary,
And he sleeps and makes no moan:—
Sleeps and dreams of the lilies
That lay in the hand of Spring,—
Of the Summer’s regal beauty,
Of October’s blossoming…
And so he, sleeping, lieth;
And so the night wears on;
While the New Year, brave and buoyant,
Comes over the hills of dawn…
The Old and the New together:—
So come and so go the years;
So in all life’s good-byes and greetings
We mingle our smiles and our tears.
~Luella Clark (1832–1915), “The Old and the New,” in Golden Hours: A Magazine for Boys and Girls, January 1875

Ring out wild bells to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), In Memoriam A.H.H., 1833

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
~Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), In Memoriam A.H.H., 1833

Some welcome it
others fight it
a few don’t even care
but whatever viewpoint
you subscribe to,
the new year arrives
like a hare!
~Terri Guillemets, “No tortoise years,” 2003

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results means you’re either insane or are making a New Year’s resolution. ~@thedeadauthor, 2015

New Year’s Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive. ~Jay Leno (b.1950)

It’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year’s that matters—it’s what you eat between New Year’s and Christmas that counts. ~William A. Canady, in Boca Raton News, 1983 December 25th

While the bald trees stretch forth their long lank arms…
And nought more gladsome in the hedge is seen,
Than the dark holly’s grimly glistening green—
At such a time, the ancient year goes by
To join its parents in eternity—
At such a time the merry year is born,
Like the bright berry from the naked thorn.
~Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849), “New-Year’s Day,” Poems, 1833

[O]nly the past glitters…. Every one regards his own life as the new-year’s eve of time… ~Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (1763–1825), Levana; or, the Doctrine of Education, 1807, translated from the German by A.H., 1848

New Year’s Day—Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion. ~Mark Twain (1835–1910), in Territorial Enterprise, 1863 January 1st

While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.
~Martin Luther (1483–1546), Christmas carol for his little son Hans, 1535

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterward. ~G.K. Chesterton, quoted in The Viking Book of Aphorisms: A Personal Selection by W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger, 1966 edition

But can one still make resolutions when one is over forty? I live according to twenty-year-old habits. ~André Gide (1869–1951), journal, 1912, translated from French (second Pléiade edition) by Justin O’Brien

For hark! the last chime of the dial has ceased,
And Old Time, who his leisure to cozen,
Has finish’d the Months, like the flasks at a feast,
Is preparing to tap a fresh dozen!
~Thomas Hood (1799–1845), “Anacreontic for the New Year,” The New Monthly Magazine, January 1842

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool. ~F.M. Knowles, quoted in Laughter, the Best Medicine: Holidays: Ho, Ho, Ha! The Merriest Jokes, Quotes, and Cartoons by the Editors of Reader’s Digest, 2012

Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), tweet, 2009 December 31st

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), “Little Gidding”

When Time has set the shadow of
His frown upon the hills…
And belted hist’ry’s landscape with
His russet swath of death,
A happy new-year then I wish
To all who share my breath.
~Arad Joy Sebring (1833–1916), “Happy New Year,” Girdle of Gladness, 1905

“I have a fine lot of hopes here in my basket,” remarked the New Year. “They are a sweet-smelling flower—a species of rose.”
“They soon lose their perfume,” replied the sombre Old Year. “What else have you brought to insure a welcome from the discontented race of mortals?”
~Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864), “The Sister Years,” Carrier’s Address to Patrons of the Salem Gazette, 1839 January 1st

The old year dies and we face the new year as though it were an entity, new as a newborn babe. A new calendar with twelve leaves, one for each month. Something in us, some need for the specific, the orderly, the mathematical exactitude, calls for such demarcation. Yet any year, regardless of arbitrary time, is like a circle; you can start at any point upon it and, following the circle, you come back to that point. Our year, our circle, happens to be a cycle of the seasons, planting, growing, reaping, resting; and thus it is a part of the earth, the soil and the flowing waters as well as of the stars by which it is gauged…. And year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “The Tomorrows,” 1952 December 30th

Hope and faith flower from the cheerful seeds of the old year to the sprouting garden of the new year’s dawn. ~Terri Guillemets, “Annuals,” 2004

The New Year opens most beautifully to me with all my dear ones in good health, & each busy & happy in their own peculiar way. ~Anna Alcott Pratt, January 1861, quoted from louisamayalcott.org

Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits. ~Author unknown

Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for the weak. That is all that can be said for them. They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account. ~Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890

There is too much said at New Year’s about turning over a new leaf. Are the old leaves all so badly written that we must hasten to forget them? Is the blank whiteness of the untouched page more pleasant to the eye or more fortifying to the will than those closely written, underlined, untidy, but familiar pages which make up the story of one’s life? ~Bliss Perry, “Turning the Old Leaves, The Atlantic Monthly, January 1907

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s. ~Attributed to Henry Moore

For ’tis the season, when the nights are long,
There’s time, e’er morn, for each to sing his song.
The year departs, a blessing on its head,
We mourn not for it, for it is not dead:
Dead? What is that? A word to joy unknown,
Which love abhors, and faith will never own.
~Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849), “New-Year’s Day,” Poems, 1833