New Year’s resolutions have been around longer than any of us can remember. But where did the concept even come from? According to history.com, it was the ancient Babylonians who first did it, about 4000 years ago. Their New Year started in mid-March, when spring brought new crops.
For their New Year, the Babylonians would hold a huge religious festival that lasted 12 days. They would crown a new king or reaffirm loyalty to the current one. They would make promises to the gods to pay back their debts and return borrowed items to their owners. If their promises were kept, they believed their gods would bless them in the coming year. If not, they would fall out of favor with the gods.
This festival was called Akitu. And it can be considered the catalyst to New Year‘s resolutions. Of course, we don’t believe anymore that we’ll tick any god off if we don’t follow through with ours. We just carry around a heaping helping of guilt for a few months. Which might be worse for some of us.
It might have been nice to get another holiday off in March. Though we’ve gotten used to the massive holiday season with Christmas and New Year‘s being a week apart. Well, we can thank Julius Caesar for that. Around about 46 B.C., Caesar declared January 1 the first day of the new year. He named the month after Janus, a two-faced god in Roman culture. It was believed that Janus could simultaneously look back at the previous year and ahead to the new one.
And thus, January became the traditional time to make promises for the new year and let go of regrets for the old one. But it’s not just humans making resolutions. Animals do it too. Check out this gallery of New Year’s resolutions some of our animal friends are making for 2023. –Wendy Rush