How and Why the Tradition of Making Resolutions Began
Many people will be preparing for the new year with a specific goal in mind, called a resolution. Who started this tradition, and where did it come from?Â The history of making New Year’s resolutions dates all the way back to the time of ancient Rome. The Romans are responsible for the majority of the modern calendar and for the tradition of making resolutions on New Years.Â Celebrating the new year has been a tradition for thousands of years and is arguably the oldest celebrated holiday. The ancient Babylonians were the first to hold celebrations for the new year over 4000 years ago though they did not begin the tradition of making resolutions on that day.
New Years has not always been celebrated on January 1st and it’s not celebrated on that date everywhere today. The Roman and Gregorian calendars are both solar calendars that hold the new year on January 1st. Lunar calendars such as the Chinese calendar would hold the new year on the first full moon of the year.
The Romans and the Tradition of Resolutions
In the early Roman Empire the new year was celebrated in March. This made sense to the Romans because it marked the beginning of spring and the planting of the first crops.Â Â In 153 BCE Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the Roman calendar by the Roman Senate. In legend Janus had two faces which he used to look to the future and the past. Since it was believed that Janus could forgive transgressions, many Romans would give gifts and make promises at the beginning of the new calendar year. Their belief was that Janus would see this and then bless their life for the entire year.
Over the next years, each Caesar made his own changes to the calendar. The official date of New Year’s switched from January to March and back again several different times over this time period.
In 46 BCE Julius Caesar changed the Roman calendar in order to make it align more evenly with the seasons and to make further changes impossible. Caesar made January 1st the official beginning of the next year. A legend began that on the last day of December at midnight Janus would see the past year and the next year at the same time. Romans began making promises to Janus on the last day of December in the hopes that he would see their sincerity and help them attain their goals.
The legend continued on after the Roman Empire was dissolved. During the Middle Ages Christian powers attempted to remove the Roman traditions from the calendar. Christians proclaimed the new year to be December 25th in order to celebrate it with the birth of Christ.Â In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar and the new year was once again celebrated on January 1st. The tradition of making resolutions once again surfaced while the mythical element of Janus was removed.
New Year Trivia Quiz
Ten multiple choice trivia questions about New Year holiday history and tradition: By Deanna Mascle
1. Under which calendar is New Year’s Day Jan. 1?
A. Julian Calendar
B. Gregorian Calendar
C. Jewish Calendar
D. Chinese Calendar
E. All of the above
QQ: New Year’s Day is the first day of the year, Jan. 1, in the Gregorian calendar. Traditionally the day has been observed as a religious feast, but in modern times the arrival of the New Year has also become an occasion for spirited celebration and the making of personal resolutions.
2. What calendar determines the date of the Chinese New Year?
QQ: The Chinese New Year, traditionally based on the lunar calendar, is celebrated in many American cities with the roar of blazing firecrackers, dancing dragons made from papier mÃ¢ché and cloth, and traditional music.
3. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new year for what religion?
QQ: Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew, “beginning of the year”), Jewish New Year, celebrated on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishri (falling in September or October) by Orthodox and Conservative Jews and on the first day alone by Reform Jews. It begins the observance of the Ten Penitential Days, a period ending with Yom Kippur that is the most solemn of the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the High Holy Days.
4. Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday that begins Dec. 26 and extends through Jan. 1. What does the word mean in Swahili?
A. First fruits
B. First people
C. First days
D. First dance
QQ: Kwanzaa, or matunda ya kwanza, is Swahili for “first fruits”. This is an African American holiday observed by African communities throughout the world that celebrates family, community, and culture. Kwanzaa has its roots in the ancient African first-fruit harvest celebrations from which it takes its name. However, its modern history begins in 1966 when it was developed by African American scholar and activist Maulana Karenga.
5. In the Middle Ages most European countries used the Julian calendar, so they observed New Year’s Day when?
A. Feb. 14th
B. March 25th
C. April 1st
D. May 21st
QQ: In the Middle Ages most European countries used the Julian calendar and observed New Year’s Day on March 25, called Annunciation Day and celebrated as the occasion on which it was revealed to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God.
6. The name January is derived from the Roman god Janus. What is he the god of?
A. Wine and grapes
B. Babies and childbirth
C. Clocks and calendars
D. Gates and doors
QQ: The name of the month is derived from Janus, the Roman god of gates and doors, and hence of openings and beginnings. January was the 11th month of the year in the ancient Roman calendar; in the 2nd century BC, however, it came to be regarded as the first month. On January 1 the Romans offered sacrifices to Janus so that he would bless the new year.
7. When to the practioners of Tibetan Buddhism celebrate New Year’s?
QQ: Much of the ritual of Tibetan Buddhism is based on the esoteric mysticism of Tantra, devotions that involve both yoga and mantra, or a mystical formula, and ancient shamanistic practices. On special holidays the temples, shrines, and altars of the lamas are decorated with symbolic figures; milk, butter, tea, flour, and similar offerings are brought by the worshipers, animal sacrifices being strictly forbidden. Tibetan Buddhist religious festivals are numerous. The most notable are New Year’s, celebrated in February and marking the commencement of spring
8. The Roman New Year festival was called the Calends, and people decorated their homes and gave each other gifts. In early times, the ancient Romans gave each other New Year’s gifts of branches from sacred trees. Later they gave small items, such as nuts or coins, imprinted with pictures of what God?
A. Julius Caesar
B. Jesus Christ
QQ: In later years, they gave gold-covered nuts or coins imprinted with pictures of Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings. January was named after Janus, who had two faces–one looking forward and the other looking backward. The Romans also brought gifts to the emperor. The emperors eventually began to demand such gifts.
9. What New Year’s gift did ancient Persians give?
QQ: The ancient Persians gave New Year’s gifts of eggs, which symbolized productiveness.
10. In ancient Egypt what event dictated the timing of New Year’s celebrations?
A. Pharaoh’s birthday
B. Flooding of Nile
C. Solar eclipse
D. Exact alignment of stars with Great Pyramid
QQ: In ancient Egypt, New Year was celebrated at the time the River Nile flooded, which was near the end of September. The flooding of the Nile was very important because without it, the people would not have been able to grow crops in the dry desert. At New Year, statues of the god, Amon and his wife and son were taken up the Nile by boat. Singing, dancing, and feasting was done for a month, and then the statues were taken back to the temple.