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Where Did New Year’s Resolutions Come From?

When people resolve to lose weight, get a new job, practice better money management or make other New Year’s resolutions, they likely do not consider that making New Year’s resolutions is not a recently created tradition. Discover where New Year’s resolutions came from and their progression to modern day New Year’s resolutions and celebrations.

Ancient Origins Of New Year’s ResolutionsHappy New Year

Several cultures originally celebrated the start of the New Year on dates other than January 1. Ancient Romans celebrated their new year on March 1. During this time, the Roman calendar only had 10 months and 304 days in each year.

On March 1, according to Live Science, Roman magistrates presented themselves before the Roman Senate. Each magistrate affirmed to the Roman Senate that throughout the previous year, he had performed his duties in accordance with their laws. The Roman Senate then swore the magistrates in for the New Year.

The ancient Babylonians celebrated their new year during March, even before the Romans. Some sources indicate that the Babylonians celebrated during mid-March, while others claim the Babylonians held their “Akitu” celebration at the end of March. Ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods, pledging to repay debts and return borrowed items. Babylonians also celebrated the crowning of a new king or reaffirmation of their existing king as ruler over the people.

Ancient Origins points out that this was also the beginning of spring and the time for planting crops. When the people made pledges to their gods, they believed that they would remain in favor with their gods. A part of remaining in favor with the gods likely meant hoping for a good season for crops, as well as other benefits such as good financial fortune.

New Year’s Day Changes

Celebrating the New Year in March eventually fell out of favor. The Romans began to cherish home and family more than constant war. Therefore, there was little need to celebrate the New Year to promise allegiance to or worship Mars, their god of war, in hopes of battle victories. Additionally, the Roman calendar changed to include “Januarius” and “Februarius.”

When Julius Caesar implemented reforms to the calendar, he proclaimed Januarius 1 as the date for the beginning of the New Year. He also changed the New Year to January to honor the Roman god Janus, who represented new beginnings.

Involvement Of The Church On New Year’s Eve

More recent history shows traditions of believing in religious reflection for some, while others rejoiced in traditions similar to creating modern-day resolutions and celebrations.

John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church, began the tradition known as “Watch-night service” that many Christian denominations celebrate on New Year’s eve. Sources vary regarding the date of the first watch-night; however, he did start first-night services in the mid-18th century.

During the first watch-night service, which Wesley borrowed from Moravian Christians and called “Covenant Renewal Service,” he and attendees prayed, sang hymns and shared fellowship during late-night New Year’s Eve hours. Wesley called for Christians to annually renew their covenant with God. Black Christian News explains that the covenant service is often used in United Methodism as, what is called a  Watch Night Service, on New Year’s Eve, although some churches observe Covenant Renewal Service on New Year’s Day or the first Sunday in January.

Modern Resolutions And CelebrationsResolution sticky notes

Although some people proclaim their New Year’s resolutions to family and friends earlier, most people seem to make their resolutions public during New Year’s Eve revelry.

Many people proclaim their failure to keep their New Year’s resolutions early on, perhaps even enjoying the fun poked at them by social media “friends” or “followers” and loved ones. Others, however, use New Year’s Eve resolutions as a means of making and successfully achieving new goals and direction in their lives.