This Time I really Mean It. Well, At Least For A While.
Did you do it last year, the year before that, the year before that, etc.? Most of us have, but it’s the follow through that is the problem. Now that the Holidays are behind us it’s time to get serious. What in the world am I talking about? New Year’s Resolutions, of course. Most of us are quite sincere when we make them, but somehow in the not too distant future they will go by the wayside forgotten and ignored.
Where did the idea come from in the first place? Why decide to change your ways just because the new year begins? I had no idea the practice began so long ago. My research on the subject starts with history.com where I was surprised by the answer. “The ancient Babylonians are said to be the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year – though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March when the crops were planted.
During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed.” They believed that if they kept their promises their gods would reward them in the new year, but if they didn’t they would fall out of favor with their pagan gods.
In ancient Rome a similar practice took place. It seems when Julius Caesar changed the calendar around 46 B.C. and made January the first month of the year New Year’s resolutions were born there too.
The month was named after the Roman god Janus who was represented having two faces. He was the god whose spirit inhabited doorways and with the two faces could look back at the past and forward to the future. They offered sacrifices to Janus and promised good conduct for the next year.
According to history.com “For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they include readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year.”
Other religious groups share a similar belief. During the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) Jews say “one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness.” That’s according to Wikipedia. During the Christian season of Lent the practice of sacrifice during Lent also leads promising to do better in the upcoming year.
I found an interesting statistic that states about 45% of Americans say they make New Year’s Resolutions but only about 8% actually follow through and put them into practice. So whether you make New Year’s Resolutions or not it is always a good idea to plan to be a better person in the future than you have been in the past. Losing weight, not cursing, being more generous and many other resolutions promised at least show we are trying even if we can’t follow through with it for the entire year to come.
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