The custom of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years, but it started much differently than the modern tradition.
Ancient Babylonia is where the New Year’s Resolution began. That was over 4,000 years ago! They also were the first people on record to celebrate the New Year. Their New Year actually began in mid-March (when crops were planted). During a long 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts. These promises could be considered the very first New Year’s resolutions.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C.
In 1740, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, invented a new type of church service. These services, called Covenant Renewal Services or watch night services, were held during the Christmas and New Year’s season as an alternative to holiday partying.
New Year’s resolutions are now a non-religious custom, and most Americans who make them now focus on self-improvement. The U.S. government even maintains a website of those looking for tips on achieving some of the common resolutions: losing weight, stopping smoking, eating better, getting out of debt and saving money.
According to a recent study, as many as 45 percent of Americans say they make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. Don’t let that stop you though! The New Year is a great time to start fresh and get some things off your “to-do” list. Best of luck and Happy New Year!