2021 is here. Although the world may not seem anew just yet, you’ve probably at least considered some New Year’s resolutions to start fresh. But why do we make New Year’s resolutions? Who started the tradition? The history dates back to 4,000 years ago! (That’s a lot of broken promises…)
Ancient Babylonians are said to be responsible for starting the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. However, these new year celebrations and traditions were held in March. The Babylonians’ celebrations coincided with the planting of the new season’s crops. During this time, celebrations were held in honor of the Babylonian king. The Babylonians made promises to pagan gods in hopes they would reward the people in the coming year.
Nearly 2,000 years later in Rome, the modern-day calendar was born. January 1 was officially established as the beginning of the calendar year. The Romans made sacrifices and promises to January’s namesake, a god named Janus. They believed Janus was able to look backwards and forwards into the future, able to bestow good fortune in the future. Thus, January became a time to sacrifice and make amends.
In the Christian tradition, a new year began to represent a time of reflection and resolution for improvement. Methodists began celebrating a Covenant Renewal Service in 1740 to reflect and resolve oneself for the current year.
Although we typically view New Year’s resolutions in a secular way, the roots are deeply embedded in all kinds of religious culture. However, as much as Americans try at this age-old tradition, typically only 8% are successful in achieving the goals they have set. Do we have more motivation this year in particular? Only time will tell!