Where Do New Year Resolutions Come From?

Jan 07 2022

Where Do New Year Resolutions Come From?

3,2,1 ... happy new year! After the countdown to the new year, people often ask the following question -"What are your New Year’s resolutions?" 

 

Most people say they would like to start exercising and eating clean,   stop smoking, and maybe visit a new destination.

 

Other people resolve to improve their relationships or meet their career goals. All in all, many people decide to improve their lives in the new year.

 

While you might assume that making New Year’s resolutions started with the anti-smoking squad or weight loss clubs,  this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

 

Making New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year, then doing your absolute best to follow through, dates back not just centuries, but thousands of years. 


And like us, the people of that time probably also had problems following through with their resolutions.


After all, time and technologies change, but the human race does not! 


With that said, let's take a quick journey to the past to see when people started making New Year’s resolutions.



Babylonians


Making New Year’s resolutions is a thousand-year-old tradition that we owe to the Babylonians.

 

The practice originated in 2000 years BC  when the Babylonians celebrated the feast of Akitu, which marked the arrival of the new year in March, during the spring equinox. 

 

The festivities lasted for 12 days during which loyalty to the sovereign power was reaffirmed. 

 

When making their resolutions, the peasants vowed to give back the agricultural tools they borrowed from their owners or to pay their debts. 

 

This allowed them to avoid the wrath of the gods. 

The Romans


The people of Rome, the most powerful empire, recognized the importance of trying to make the New Year a great one, even if it meant changing a few things in the process.

At the center of the resolutions that the Romans made,  was god Janus (after whom the month of January is named). 

The legendary double-sided god embodied and influenced two things that define our modern traditions of making resolutions. 

First, a change from one period of time to another. Second,  the importance of recognizing new beginnings and goals. 

Deeply influenced by the folklore and mythology surrounding Janus, the Romans firmly believed that the new year should be treated with deep respect, since how one began the year would define how it would be.

So,  Romans made  New Year’s resolutions on January 1. 

Common resolutions included being friendly and helpful to compatriots - very often by sharing copious amounts of food, usually in the form of fruit. 

They believed that the resolve to be a better neighbor could positively influence the nature of the year ahead.

Modern era


At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Roman Empire was long gone. 


The Christian church did everything possible to eradicate the influence that the likes of Julius Caesar had on when and how the New Year should be celebrated. 


The Romans favored January 1, but some in the church preferred December 25. 


Back then, not only did December 25 mark the birth of Jesus Christ, it was seen by many as a time to mark new beginnings.


However, In the 1500s Pope Gregory XIII  introduced the Gregorian calendar, and January 1 became the date when the new year started- again.  Hence, people would make their resolutions on January 1.

The Puritans

Further influence on making New Year’s resolutions came from the Puritans. 

Specifically,  16th century English Protestants -some of whom left their mark in both Holland and the United States. 

Known for their partying ways, the Puritans insisted that their followers avoid having a good time as the New Year began.

Instead, they demanded a lot of time should be spent finding ways to make the new year better than the previous one. 

So from the days of ancient Babylon in Rome, and from a long-dead Pope to the Puritans,  people made resolutions at the beginning of the year.

Go ahead and make your resolutions!


Making New Year resolutions is not new. So, take the opportunity to decide to do things that will make you happy. 


Spend more time with those you love, appreciate the present moment, travel, learn a new language, dare to take singing lessons, declare your love. There are so many possibilities! 


Good luck!