So, we’ve all made it through the first full week of the year. Dare I ask the question?
How are everyone’s New Year’s resolutions going?
TBH, you’re not human unless you “screw up” on your resolutions within a week. It’s natural! We’re not meant to quit or start things cold turkey! It’s all about balance, so as long as you’re steadily working toward a goal – regardless if you take two steps back in the process – we call that a win.
I must say, though, those who don’t make New Year’s resolutions have a point: Why does January 1 have to be the day we make a change in our lives? The fact is that it doesn’t; it’s just what we’ve come to recognize as a universal re-do day. Since when, though?
Well, since 2,000 B.C., apparently.
Historical evidence suggests that the ancient Babylonians were the first to make what we understand as New Year’s resolutions – they’re the first on record to even celebrate the start of a new year, so it tracks (of course, that used to be in March, not January, before the modern calendar went through about a billion iterations to get where it’s at now).
The Babylonians celebrated a 12-day festival called Akitu, when they would re-pledge their loyalty to the king or crown a new one. Part of the festival was also about making promises to the gods to return anything borrowed and finally pay their debts, promises that could be understood as resolutions. The deal with the gods was that they’d reward the mere humans with good fortune should they keep their promises; if not, they would land on the gods’ bad side.
When the Romans established that January was going to mark the start of the year instead, they named the month after the god Janus, who symbolized looking backwards into the previous year and ahead. The Romans made sacrifices to Janus at the start of the year, promising good behavior in the months to come. Same idea.
Nowadays, of course, it’s not about making promises to gods, but to yourself. No Babylonian gods are going to smite you if you fall off the workout regimen wagon, but you get the gist. A Boston newspaper in 1813 is credited with first using the term “New Year’s resolutions,” and the resolutions we keep tend to be less religious in motive than our early European ancestors’.
TL;DR: New Year’s resolutions are basically as old as humanity itself. We’ve been breaking promises to ourselves for years, and will likely continue for years to come. Happy new year!