With the new year approaching, the most trending topic now in most social media sites are New Year’s resolutions. So it got me wondering on how this whole trend started and I looked up its history.
Turns out that this tradition has been around for about 4000 years but not exactly in the same way we see it today. The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. They also seem to have the first recorded celebrations to honor the new year but for them New Year’s was not celebrated in January, it began in mid-March, when they planted their crops. The Babylonians held a large 12 day religious festival called Akitu where they would either reaffirm their loyalty to their reigning king or crowned a new king. They also made promises to the gods. These promises could have been the beginning of the New Year’s resolutions.
In ancient Rome they practiced something similar to the Babylonians. The emperor Julius Caesar changed the calendar and made January 1st as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. which was named for Janus, the two-faced god that they believed lived in doorways and arches. January was special to the Roman’s because they believed that Janus looked backward into the previous year and ahead into the future. The Romans offered sacrifices to Janus promising to practice good conduct in the new year.
Early Christians traditionally chose the first day of the new year as a time to reflect on their past mistakes and resolving to do better. An English clergyman and the founder of Methodism, John Wesley in 1740 created was was called the Covenant Renwal Service held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. This is also known as watch night services where they had scriptural readings and hymns. This is still practiced today in many church organizations.
Although New Year’s resolutions began with religious practices, most people today make resolutions only to themselves focusing primarily on self-improvement. According to recent research, about 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but only about 8% are successful in achieving their goals. But as we know, that won’t stop folks from making their traditional resolutions each New year. I guess with 4000 years of practice, those who make New Year’s resolutions will continue to surround us especially now where we are even more exposed to people’s goals in the age if social media.
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