The History of New Year’s Resolutions

Joshua Biser, Co-editor

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New Year’s resolutions have been a massive part of culture for a very long time.  For 4,000 years, New Year’s resolutions have been created by cultures from around the world.  Despite this, many people don’t know how or why the tradition came about, and the answer isn’t from one particular source either.

The tradition dates as far back as 4,000 years, where it was practiced by the Babylonians, who were the first to have recorded celebrations in honor of the New Year.  The New Year began in what would be March for the Babylonians, however, to coincide with the planting of their crops.  Their promises were meant as what was to be expected in the year to come, and should they not keep their promises, they would lose the god’s favor.

Another place that New Year’s traditions is seen is in Ancient Rome.  Caesar moved the beginning of the year to January 1s, and named it after Janus, the god with two faces.  Resolutions were made as promises to the god, who was said to be able to look into the future.

In Christianity, the practice appeared as a way to reflect on the year, and determine what you could do better for the next one.  This practice was likely started in 1740 by John Wesley, who held a service on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  This service was called Covenant Renewal Service, the idea was to offer a more spiritual and religious alternative to the normal celebration that took place on New Year’s Eve.

While the practice of New Year’s resolutions has changed a good amount over the past 4,000 years, the core idea of the practice remains the same.  That we find ways to better ourselves, be it for physical or spiritual reasons, and we try and carry those resolutions out.

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