Gryffin T., journalist
On January 1, 2020, people from all around the globe will resolve to make a change in their lives, usually by making a specific personal goal to improve themselves.
New Year’s resolutions have been a tradition for over four millennia. This tradition dates back to the ancient Babylonians. They celebrated the festival of Akitu for several days starting on the first new moon in March following the vernal equinox. The Babylonians paid honor to their king, made promises to their gods to repay old debts, and to give back any items they might have borrowed from their neighbors during the year. During the year that followed, God would look approvingly upon people who kept their promises and with disfavor if they broke them. This was the beginning of our New Year’s resolutions tradition.
The ancient Romans, like the Babylonians, also celebrated with the vernal equinox. However, in 46 B.C., the emperor Julius Caesar instituted the Julian calendar which is similar to the Gregorian calendar we use today. To honor the Roman God Janus, Caesar named the first month January. Caesar established the 1st as the first day of the New Year. Janus was said to be able to look into the future and into the past because of his two faces. Thus, the idea of looking at the past and future was adopted as part of the New Year’s resolution idea.
In 1840 John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, brought into existence the Watch Night Service on December 31st. Church members gathered for religious readings and sang songs of praise to God. They followed the earlier tradition by celebrating the New Year on the first of January. Their New Year’s resolutions were about giving up a bad personal practice from the past and resolving some future self-improvement.
Although the idea of New Year’s resolutions comes from religion, today it is mostly a worldly tradition. Humans make promises to themselves, and not to their God(s). Like many before us, we will gather with family and friends, stay up till midnight, (watching the adults drink champagne) and countdown to the New Year. Millions of people watch the iconic ball drop in New York City’s Time Square. 2020 MMXX will mark approximately 4,000 years of a time honored tradition. So, it is time to start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. As for me, I wish all of us at GWUOHS good health, success, and happiness.
Aprilholloway. “The Ancient Origins of New Year’s Celebrations.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 5 Apr. 2019, http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-important-events/ancient-origins-new-year-s-celebrations-001181.
Pruitt, Sarah. “The History of New Year’s Resolutions.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 30 Dec. 2015, http://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions.