When it comes to New Years and making resolutions, first we have to look to the calendar we use. We haven’t been using the same Gregorian Calendar for the history of humanity. The current calendar we use we have only had for about 500 years-ish.
That’s nothing in the whole history of humanity.
We also don’t know what we were up to before the written word. For all we know they had some kind of a system for tracking Mother Nature’s cycles and they celebrated and create goals for the future as well in their own way.
When we look at what the historians are telling us about how things took place, there only soo much information they have access to. Our history and what we did becomes a blur when we lose the written word. The world was also one giant land mass at one point called Pangea.
Pangea existed about 240 million years ago and about 200 million years ago it began to break apart.
Ok back to the evolution of the calendar…
The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a minor modification of the, reducing the average year from 365.25 days to 365.2425 days, and adjusting for the drift in the ‘tropical’ or ‘solar’ year that the inaccuracy had caused during the intervening centuries.
The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar in AUC 708 (46 BC), (Ab urbe condita: latin from the founding of the city) was a reform of the Roman calendar.
It took effect on 1 January AUC 709 (45 BC ), by edict. It was designed with the aid of Greek mathematicians and Greek astronomers such as Sosigenes of Alexandria.
The calendar was the predominant calendar in the Roman world and most of Europe for more than 1,600 years.
New Year’s Resolutions
Now that we know a little bit about the history of our calendar year, let’s look at the history of New Year’s Resolutions.
Apparently ancient Babylonian’s were the first people to decide that making resolutions for the New Year was a good idea. They started this tradition about 4000-ish kind of sort years ago.
If you don’t know anything about Babylonia. Here are some facts about that ancient culture.
Babylonia was a state in ancient Mesopotamia. The city of Babylon, whose ruins are located in present-day Iraq, was founded more than 4,000 years ago as a small port town on the Euphrates River. It grew into one of the largest cities of the ancient world under the rule of Hammurabi.
What is really interesting is that Babylonian’s were the first to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the new year.
Just because they were the first to have recorded doing so, doesn’t mean they were the first to do it.
How many times does someone with wealth, power, fame, see someone do something and steal the idea and take ALL the credit?
Babylon being a large powerful city was in a position to create and record traditions and have them remembered throughout history.
It could have been some man/woman in ancient times from some tiny little village who had been practicing it for generation as a family tradition.
Then some dude with wealth and power came and discovered the tradition and stole it and made it the thing of Babylon.
This is totally me messing with theories.
The Babylonian’s year began in mid-March, not in January, when the crops were planted.
They had a super cool, huge, ginormous festival call Akitu. They crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the current king.
They also promised to pay their debts and return the book they borrowed from Joe. Haha!
I mean the promised to return any objects they had borrowed throughout the year.
What they called promises when the New Year Started has now evolved into what we call Resolutions.
At the time Babylonian’s believed if they kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year.
If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor — a place no one wanted to be. We know how childish and petty those God’s can be so it’s best not to mess with them.
In ancient Rome they did something very similar. Julius Caesar being arguably the most power man in the world at the time, decided to tinker with the calendar. In 46 B.C. he established January 1st as the beginning of the year.
Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans.
They believed Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future.
As the Roman’s did back then, offering sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
The early Christians used the first day of the new year as a traditional occasion as well. They took time out to look at past mistakes and resolved to do better in the future.
This clergyman who wanted his name to go down in history as doing something important, founded Methodism.
That will do it, I guess. If you want to be remembered, create a cult, I mean religion.
So, this dude John Wesley created a new service in 1740 based on previous traditions and made it his own by adding a special name to it and adding religious stuff.
To make it his own, he called it the Covenant Renewal Service which was held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. There was scripture reading and hymns being sung which made is super Christian.
His tradition stuck, lucky him and became popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African American denominations and congregations.
Covenant Renewal Service or what is now knows as Watch night services held on New Year’s Eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
The cultures that were said to have found the tradition of resolutions made promises to the God’s that were worshiped at the time.
In the present day we are making these resolutions or promises to ourselves. They are a lot more focused on Personal Development instead of seeking the favour of a God.
What is really interest about New Year’s Resolutions is that according to recent research as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals.
Cool Story Bro!
So according to the written word, this is how it all happened.
I love looking back at history to figure out why I do the things I do.
1. I love history
2. I like to look back to see if the foundations of the practice are something I want to condone.
Sometimes I look at the tradition or practice and decide it’s no good and it’s got to go. Sometimes I keep the tradition and put my own meaning on it.
Like Christmas. That is a topic I am not going to get into today. However, the focus for me for Christmas is my family and creating memories with them. Oh, ya and giving to my favourite charity Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary.
So now that you know about the History of New Year’s Resolutions, what are you going to do?
Harmony Woodington C.Ht.