New Year’s Resolutions is a common tradition in the American society, when people decide to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or improve their life in general.
The ancient Babylonians are said be the first group of people to make New Year’s resolutions, about 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year, even though they consider the year began in mid-March, when the crops were planted. During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the ruling king. They also form promises with their gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises are considered to be the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the god’s favor, a place no one wanted be.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the emperor Julius Caesar adjusted the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. Named after the two faced god Janus, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
In the Medieval era, knights took the “peacock vow”, an event where the knights put their hands on a roasted or alive peacock to recommit themselves for the next 12 months to the ideals of chivalry, while early Christians believed the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the new year. At the New Year’s Eve services, many Christians prepare for the new year by praying and making resolutions for themselves.
There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. The concept, regardless of religion, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.
The tradition of the New Year’s Resolution is still mostly practice. Instead of making promises to gods, today most people make resolutions for themselves, mainly on self-improvement, such as weight loss, better grades, and many more.
Nearing the end of 2017, it is time to look back at the memories that have been created. Go back and remember the school year, the sports you played, the friends you created, kept, and lost, the family interactions you went to, and the persona that you displayed. Now, what do you wish to change?