Four Thousand Years of Resolutions

new year
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!   photo by Laura Lin

Bringing in a new year is celebrated in different ways and with various traditions that range from eating grapes at midnight to good luck meals new year’s day. However, there is one tradition that has been with us for nearly 4,000 years – New Year’s Resolutions.

According to, setting new year resolutions can be traced back to Ancient Babylonians who would celebrate the planting of crops with 12 days of religious festivals and pledging allegiance to the king. During this time promises would be made to the gods in order to maintain favor with them.

The Babylonians celebrated their new year in March but under Julius Caesar the holiday was moved to January, the month named for Janus who was a two-faced god. It was thought that he had one face that looked backwards into the previous year and the other that looked towards the future of the new one. As before the new year was celebrated with promises and sacrifices to the gods.

Early Christians would continue the trend by meditating on the mistakes of the past year in order to do better in the new one. In 1740, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, came up with the Covenant Renewal Service, also called “watch night services.” Today, many churches still keep to this tradition, praying in the new year as an alternative to “raucous celebrations” while trying to find a way to be pleasing to their God in the year to come.

New year’s resolutions evolved over time beyond religious goals into the secular world. We see more resolutions that are meant to be self-serving, for betterment of mental, physical, and emotional health. People seek weight loss, new hobbies, and money on their list. The concept of resolutions has become the topic of casual discussions, magazine articles, and even YouTube videos. There are surveys taken and even directions given on how to make and keep the yearly goals.

I have not been immune to observing this long standing tradition. My resolutions varied from religious to personal to bucket list items. I find that writing them down is a good way to revisit the past while also staying focused on the future as it allows me to track what was important to me from one year to the next, see my growth, and even feel a sense of accomplishment. I seldom fulfill these annual goals, but they guide me when I feel as though I’m running in circles or sitting stagnant in life.

Some of my resolutions have been to publish a book, run a 5k, read my Bible daily, and write daily. Often my resolutions blend with my bucket list – graduating from college, visiting Washington D.C., going out on a tall ship – in order to accomplish the bucket list I make some items a resolution in order to force a deadline and aid in the success of succeeding.

As we begin 2019 I wonder what resolutions I should place before myself. I’ve never been the weight loss, exercise more type and currently, I’ll confess, to being in a bit of spiritual slump. So, as I search my mind and soul I stumble upon an interesting idea, maybe I am coming up empty because I am content with my life and who I am?

From the Ancient Babylonians to the present day, resolutions were met by assessing the wrongs of our lives, trying to live up to a higher power’s expectations…basically, we’re not good enough. Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect…far from it…but I accept myself, flaws and all, and if I am to “appease the gods” the truth is, I know that my God accepts me with these flaws as well.

Resolutions are part of our history and will probably go on to be a part of our future, but in contemplating the changes you wish to make in the new year, you are reflecting upon your well-being in all its complexities in order to become the best you you can be.

However you choose to bring in the new year, it should bring you peace and happiness.



Reader’s Digest Top 15 New Year’s Resolutions

  1.  Get in shape
  2.  Lose weight
  3.  Enjoy life to the fullest
  4.  Save money
  5.  Spend more time with family and friends
  6.  Get organized
  7.  Learn something new
  8.  Travel more
  9.  Break cell phone addiction
  10.  Eat at home more
  11.  Drink less
  12.  Stop smoking
  13.  Reduce stress
  14. Get more sleep
  15.  Floss regularly

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