A short glimpse at the history of New Year’s Resolutions


Savana Olivas '18

The Roman god, Janus, who was the center of Roman New Year's celebrations.

Skylar Smith, Business Manager

New Year’s resolutions are extremely popular in today’s society. Some of the more common resolutions are focused on health and fitness to promote personal wellbeing. However, many people are unaware of the extensive history regarding New Year’s resolutions, which date back to the Babylonian times.

According to an article by History, the Babylonians began the tradition of New Year’s resolutions over 4,000 years ago. They celebrated the new year in March instead of January, but held elaborate festivities centered around the planting of new crops. During this celebration, the Babylonians promised their gods that they would return any borrowed objects and pay off remaining debts. Their incentive for keeping these promises was blessed favor from their gods, who would remove that favor the next year if the Babylonians failed in their promises.

Years later, ancient Romans also practiced New Year’s resolutions, according to an article by Ancient Origins. The emperor Julius Caesar changed the beginning of the new year to January 1, in honor of the god Janus. To further revere Janus, the Romans promised to act righteous in the coming year and conducted ritualistic sacrifices.

According to the same article by History, January 1 was also a time for early Christians to reflect on their actions and determine to do better in the new year. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, started the first Covenant Renewal Service in 1740, which was a night service on New Year’s Eve or Day to promote spiritual activities instead of partying to celebrate the new year. This practice is still conducted in many evangelical churches today.

Nowadays, New Year’s resolutions are mostly centered around self-improvement, though most resolutions are unsuccessful. Senior Claire Fleming commented, “I always have big plans to make myself the best person I can be at the beginning of the year, but I usually fall back into my old habits after a month or so.”

According to research by Statistic Brain, almost half of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, but less than 10% are successful in keeping it. Despite this low success rate, history illustrates that New Year’s resolutions have remained an enduring tradition that only seems to evolve with time.