top of page

New Year’s Resolutions – A History

People have been making New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years, but where did this idea come from?

It is said that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions about 4000 years ago. However, for them, the new year started in March, when the spring harvest came in.

They held a 12 day festival called Akitu to celebrate and either crown a new king or renew their loyalties to the current one. They would also make promises to the Gods to pay their debts and return borrowed objects so that the Gods would bestow favour upon them for the rest of the year.

Centuries later, in ancient Rome, emperor Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar to replace the Roman calendar which then established 1st January as the start of a new year. January had special importance to the Romans as it was named after the two-faced God, Janus. They believed Janus looked backwards into the previous year and looked ahead into the coming year.

Due to this belief, the Romans offered sacrifices to Janus and made promises of good behaviour for the new year.

Early Christians used the first day of the new year to think about past mistakes and how to be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman, John Wesley (founder of Methodism) established the Covenant Renewal Service also known as Watch Night. This was held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day as an alternative to the wild festivities and was spent reading scriptures and singing hymns. Nowadays, this service still occurs and is spent praying and making New Year’s resolutions.

The history of New Year’s resolutions is so interesting - it appears to be almost a worldwide phenomenon between us humans. It’s motivating to know we have strived to make improvements in our lives for thousands of years at the time of the new year.

In modern society though, the reason we make these resolutions has changed drastically since they originated, 4000 years ago. Many of us probably do not make promises to the Gods anymore, but instead, to ourselves.

Some of our resolutions may include setting goals, making behaviour changes or deciding to omit something from our lives.

So, for all those who will set New Year’s resolutions for 2019, whatever they are and for whatever reason you make them, it is a 4000 year old spectacle.


50 views0 comments
bottom of page