Do You Know When And Why The New Year’s Resolution Tradition Got Started?

New Year’s is a beautiful time for individuals all throughout the world: A time to reflect and evaluate the past year, so that the next will be more productive and fulfilling than the last.

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Along with that evaluation typically comes with a set of goals that have come to be known as New Year’s Resolutions. Even as an Internet meme, New Year’s Resolutions aren’t typically completed. In the United States, only about 8% of the 45% of those that come up with said resolutions actually follow through with them.

These resolutions tend to be a lot about an individual’s self image and what they want for themselves for the next year, and are typically very secular in nature. It wasn’t always this way, though. New Year’s Resolutions actually have religious origins. Thousands of years ago, people would make resolutions to their pagan gods during the month of the harvest, and set goals of paying off their debts to their gods, asking for a more profitable and successful harvest, or just giving thanks.

This normally occurred in mid March rather than the actual first of the year. Fast forward a couple millennia, and the ancient Romans began to worship a god named Janus, supposedly where we get the word for the month of January. Janus was meant to be a symbol of reflection of the past year, and even looking ahead into the next. Sacrifices were made to Janus of improved behaviour. Early Christians has a similar idea, but instead of promises of better behaviour, New Year’s served primarily as a time of reflection on mistakes made in that year.

A clergyman of the early English church and father of the Methodist faith John Wesley started a gathering called the Covenant Renewal Service, which served as an alternate method of celebration to the secular partying that normally took place elsewhere. As cliche as it may seem, knowing the origins of the New Year’s Resolution could be useful to those that are religiously inclined or otherwise; It might just be beneficial to form healthy habits from ancient traditions.