In the past 2 days, I’ve heard 4 different people say, “Welp…I’ve already blown my New Year’s resolution!” Which got me thinking: why do we make these sweeping annual promises to ourselves? Where did this tradition come from? And why does this tradition continue when so many people fail? Well, to start, we have the ancient Babylonians to thank (or blame).
The earliest recorded celebration that honored the coming of a new year was held in Babylon about 4000 years ago. Calendars weren’t what they are today, as the Babylonians kicked their new year off in late March, during the first new moon after the Spring Equinox, with their 11-day Akitu festival, dedicated to the rebirth of Marduk, the sun god. During those festivities, Babylonians made promises so they could get on their gods’ good sides, in the hopes of starting the new year off right.
Resolutions continued with the Romans. Julius Caesar decided to make a change to the early Roman calendar when it didn’t jive with the sun any longer. Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, which is basically what our modern calendar is today, and declared the first day of the year to be January 1, in honor of Janus, the god of new beginnings, to whom they promised to better themselves.
This tradition’s persisted around the world ever since. Back in 2012, Google even launched a Resolution Map where people could add their resolutions in real time. And, the experiment showed the number of people who maintain their resolutions is bleak: only 9.2% of people are successful in sticking them out.
The most popular resolutions:
Lose weight/eat healthier
Save more money
Spend more time with friends/family
Get & stay healthy
Learn something new
Help others pursue their goals
If those sound familiar & remind you the whole concept’s a bust, or if they inspire you to create your own, just remember: this tradition’s destined to live on, since 4000 years of history shows us that, which is a hard-to-argue-with statistic. But, if you’re still plugging along, I wish you all the success in the world!
Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.