History of the New Year’s Resolution

Don’t get too bummed out but the concept of a New Year’s resolution doesn’t have a single historical origin. However, there are a few major turning points for this cultural tradition.

  1. New Year’s Resolutions likely started in the Springtime. 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia, life revolved around agriculture. The beginning of the calendar started in the March/April time frame when the crops started to grow. This symobolized a new beginning and was paired with the Babylonian Akitu Festival. Citizens would make promises to the gods for the new year and use this as a moment to return borrowed tools, supplies and equipment. They lived in a more trade-based economy, so this was a good moment to reset. If you kept your promise (New Year’s Resolution) to the gods, it was said that good fortune would fall upon you. 
  2. 46 BC Julis Caesar established January 1st as New Year’s Day. Without communication technology, people across the Roman Empire didn’t know what day it was. This made it difficult to plan events and really anything at all. The further and further one got from the center of a city, the less likely they would know what day it was. Julius Caesar established January 1st as the beginning of the year to solve this problem. This calendar would be called the Julian calendar. The name January comes from the god Janus – the god of new beginnings. Janice was often Illustrated with two faces, one face looking into the future and one face looking into the past. On January 1st, government officials would make promises to the emperor himself to show loyalty. The courts would close for half a day and New Year’s Day was considered a holiday. 
  3. The Ball Drops in Times Square for the first time in 1907. Millions of people watch the ball drop and many use this moment to mark the beginning of their New Year’s Resolution. But why a ball and what is the meaning behind it? This tradition actually comes from ancient sailing. Sailors needed to know what time it was but their timekeeping methods aboard the ships were primitive. To solve this problem, there would be a giant ball at the port that could be seen from sea. This ball would drop at the same time every day (usually 1pm) to help sailors reset their understanding of time. 

In some ways, the mark of a new year is arbitrary. What is the practical difference of starting a goal on January 1st versus August 12th? Holidays are a man-made construct; however, we at because I said I would are grateful for the holiday of New Year’s Day. Something has to wake us up and remind us of the importance of our goals and the shortness of life. If that reminder comes with an arbitrary day and an arbitrary ball, we’ll take it. Because what is not arbitrary is your life and how you spend it. Anything that reminds us of that is a good thing. 

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