New Year's Resolutions: From Babylonians to Chinese, a look at the ancient roots of this custom

People usually have a number of resolutions promising improvements in their lives. People will promise to forsake alcohol, embrace a healthier lifestyle and even about starting a new hobby

FP Trending December 29, 2020 18:15:00 IST
New Year's Resolutions: From Babylonians to Chinese, a look at the ancient roots of this custom

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It is that time of the year again when people sit down and decide how they are going to make their life better/ different the coming year.

Model Chrissy Teigen, writing her New Year's resolution on Twitter, vowed to not explain things to people.

Elaborating that for years she has been "consumed by an overwhelming need" to explain everything she is doing, the model stated that she is not going to do it anymore

People usually have a number of resolutions promising improvements in their lives. People will promise to forsake alcohol, embrace a healthier lifestyle and even speak about starting a new hobby. But have you ever wondered what is the history and significance of New Year's resolutions?

The tradition of New Year's resolutions actually predates Christmas. The ancient Babylonians, four centuries ago, were the first civilisation to leave records of New Year's festivities. A 12-day festival to celebrate the renewal of life called Akitu marked the commencement of the agrarian year.

Similarly, ancient Egyptians would sacrifice animals to Hapi, the god of the Nile, at the beginning of their year (sometime in July).

Caleb Terry, a European history and Western civilizations teacher at Archbishop Chapelle High School in Louisiana, told CNET that while modern New Year's resolutions seem more secular, the concept as a whole is not much different to ancient customs, with promises of hopes of good things in the coming year mirroring old traditions based on religion.

Much like Egypt and Babylon, the Chinese New Year originated more than 3,000 years ago as well.

The Chinese New Year celebrations began during the Shang Dynasty as a way to celebrate the spring planting season. During the time of Julius Caesar, the 365-day calendar we are familiar with, was born. In the year 46 BC, Caesar extended the year to 455 days and declared 1 January as New Year's Day.

While the Julian Calendar fell out of favour during the Middle Ages, Pope Gregory XIII solved the calendar problem by introducing the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, re-establishing 1 January as the first day of the New Year.

As per the Merriam Webster, the term "New Year's Resolution" was first used in a Boston newspaper in 1813.

According to The Conversation, when setting resolutions, it is important that they are linked to meaningful goals and values that can sustain motivation. Research has found that 'goal flexibility' which means the ability to be able to adapt to various situations, is associated with mental well-being and in turn with greater chance of sticking to New Year’s resolutions.

Thus being adaptable in the process of meeting one's goals not only improves general well-being but also helps one pursue their New Year's resolutions.

According to History.com, despite having traditional roots, New Year's resolutions are nowadays mostly secular in nature and focus primarily on self-improvement.

At the end of the day, the significance of New Year's resolutions is that they give people something to look forward to and keep working towards that goal.

Even if people have not followed through completely, making a New Year's resolution shows that they have belief and hope in their ability to change habits to create a better version of themselves.

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