7 Fun Facts About New Year’s Resolutions Around the World

Well, 2017 has arrived. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year? In Western cultures, making New Year’s resolutions (and failing to keep them) is a long-running tradition that’s also become kind of a joke. So, why do we start out the new year with such lofty goals? Do people in other countries torture themselves like this? Here are 7 interesting facts about New Year’s resolutions around the world.

The ancient Babylonians made the first New Year’s resolutionsishtar_gate

Who started the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions? Possibly the ancient Babylonians, about 4,000 years ago.

The ancient Babylonians celebrated the New Year on the first new moon after the spring equinox. They called it Akitu, and it was a major festival that lasted 11 days. During the festival, the Babylonians made New Year’s resolutions to keep themselves in good standing with the gods.  But kale juice cleanses and the like were unknown back then, of course. So, they often resolved to get out of debt or to return borrowed farm equipment. Much more sensible, probably.

The tradition continued in ancient Rome

Starting off a new year in the middle of winter is a Roman innovation, and we still use an improved version of the old Roman calendar today. Originally, though, the Roman calendar started off in March. Ancient Roman tradition held that the month of Ianuarius (January, in case you haven’t guessed) was one of two months added to the original Roman calendar by the Roman king Numa. According to the writer Columella, who lived in the 1st century AD and wrote an ancient Roman version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, farmers were supposed to make an “auspicious gesture” on 1 January by getting started on the tasks they intended to get done throughout the year.

Romans in all occupations offered resolutions to Janus, the god of beginnings, endings and the New Year. Read more